Editorial: What INEC should do in 2019 polls

Editorial: What INEC should do in 2019 polls

During the re-run election in Plateau, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Godwin Kwanga, promised at a stakeholder's forum in Jos, that the co

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During the re-run election in Plateau, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Godwin Kwanga, promised at a stakeholder’s forum in Jos, that the commission would prosecute under aged voters and prevent a recurrence. But it was ridiculous what Nigerians witnessed at different polling units mainly in the North parts of the country where under-aged voting was prevalent. The pattern was so reckless that in Kano and Jigawa states among others, children as young as seven years voted with valid Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

It was thought that the sweeping condemnations it attracted would prompt the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to clean up its voters’ register. Ahead of subsequent elections, discerning Nigerians also expected that the commission would detect and eliminate all multiple registrations.

But, in the bye-elections that followed in Plateau State and several other states in the north, children still voted overwhelmingly, while INEC officials and security operatives did nothing to stop the trend.

Curiously, with just one year to another general election, the trend has remained. Of great worry was the local government election held recently in Kano State, where again, much younger children voted in brazen disregard to electoral laws.

While we acknowledge that INEC had dissociated itself from shortcomings arising from local government elections, we also believe that the commission is blameworthy having fostered the trend on the electoral system. But it is worrisome that INEC has till date, failed to prosecute those behind the procurement of PVCs for these children. Several questions are begging for answers here. Who are the INEC officials that registered these children? Were the PVCs collected by the children themselves or by political mercenaries? Nigeria Moment is worried that these irregularities are still widespread at a time when the continuous voter registration is ongoing countrywide. The implication is that more under-aged children could be registered ahead of the 2019 general elections and should that happen, the credibility of the elections would hang in the balance, the multiplier effects of which could be catastrophic to the polity.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said in April 2017, when the Continuous Voter Registration exercise started, that the exercise was to ensure that people collect their PVCs in person and not by proxy.

If this had remained applicable, the commission should explain why the provision has not been enforced in line with the provision of part 111, sections 9-24 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). As an electoral umpire, the commission should prove that it is impartial by abiding with the provisions of the Electoral Act, which stipulates, among others that 18 years is the eligible age for people to be registered to vote. INEC must rise up to its role by using the current continuous registration exercise to rid the voter’s register of all under aged voters as well as multiple registrants. Nigeria Moment urges the commission to sensitize the electorate on the implication of under-aged voting and prosecute anyone found to have compromised in this regard. INEC must do all within its means to guaranty the integrity of our electoral system.