Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria(HURIWA), on Friday, tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission to expunge the names of dead persons and child voters from its voter register ahead of the 2023 general elections.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said anything short of the removal of child voters and dead persons would produce fraudulent polls next year.
The group argued that child voting and the presence of dead persons in the INEC database would encourage rigging and vote-buying by moneybag politicians who desperately want to occupy an elective office in 2023.
Recall that INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a PUNCH report dated January 1, 2022, said that the names of dead voters and child voters cannot be removed from the voter register due to the absence of reliable data of births and deaths.
The implication of this is that Nigeria may go into the 2023 general elections with a faulty voter register marred by multiple registrations and underage persons which could mar the credibility of the elections as well as make the commission incur unnecessary costs, given that the commission might have to print ballot papers for the registered voters.
INEC had said that the Presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on Saturday 25th February 2023, followed by the Governorship and State Assembly elections on Saturday 11th March 2023.
However, HURIWA stated that mere announcement was not enough, the commission must get to work, adding that with the assent to the Electoral Act 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari recently, the electoral umpire should be more concerned about having a clean and credible voter register.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The preparations of INEC for general elections have not been impressive at all. With the Electoral Act in place although with some legal issues that would be resolved soon, INEC needs to be seen to be in top gears in preparations for the general elections which is around the corner.
“However, it is very clear and disappointing that INEC is just hibernating and not doing much to clean up the National Voter Register to ensure that all eligible Nigerians who wish to be registered are captured and automatically issued their PVCs.
“At the moment, millions of Nigerians have no voter cards and not much is heard from INEC on where to go physically and get the registration done.
“INEC should by now be thinking ahead on the workability of the electronic voter’s machines and other technologies that are to be introduced or already used in the last Anambra election but did not yield maximum results.
“INEC should conduct security audits of Nigeria and put in place strategies with the security agencies on how to prevent security challenges that always come up during elections.
“INEC should by now have kickstarted enlightenment on voting rights and how to exercise the rights and INEC has not done anything to eliminate child voters that are a disturbing part of elections in most populous northern states like Kano and some riverine states in Southern Nigeria so that the coming election is not contaminated with children voting at elections when adults who are ready to vote are deliberately denied their PVCs.
“INEC needs to work out communication lines that are functional right now for Nigerians with election-related complaints, especially with the exercise of their voter’s rights to contact them and get redress.
“INEC should by now be telling Nigerians living with disabilities that the voting environment will be made friendly and show evidence of the infrastructures that are already put on the ground to ensure that
disabled citizens are not disallowed to exercise their civic rights.”