A total of 68,833,476 Nigerians registered for next month’s general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, at a meeting with the national leadership of all the 23 registered political parties in Abuja on Tuesday evening, added that over four million people were involved in multiple registrations.
He said, “In line with the provisions of the law, the commission has just announced the publication of the register of voters that will be used for the February 2015 general elections. The total number of voters registered for the elections is 68,833,476.”
Jega explained that the names of those involved in double registration had been deleted from the computer.
He said that 38,774,391 Nigerians had so far collected their Permanent Voter Cards out of the 54,341,610 that were ready as of Monday last week.
Jega added that the commission had ordered for more PVCs and that some were already awaiting collection.
The INEC boss said, “The commission has taken delivery of additional PVCs from its contractor and we are positive that we will have all outstanding cards with us by January 28, 2015.
“For the avoidance of doubt, possession of PVCs is a strict condition for anyone intending to vote in the 2015 elections.”
Asked about the resolution passed by the House of Representatives shortly before he met with the leaders of the parties asking INEC to also use Temporary Voter Cards , he said he was not aware of the resolution.
He nevertheless said that the commission was working with the intent of using only PVCs for the elections.
Jega regretted that many Nigerians had failed to collect their PVCs, adding that in order to address this, the commission had directed all its resident electoral commissioners to further decentralise the distribution of the cards to the ward level.
The distribution, according to him , would begin at 8. 30am and end at 5. 30pm every day except Sunday.
He added, , “INEC will use card readers for the elections. The commission has taken delivery of more than 130,000 units of the card readers and we are on schedule to receive the remaining quantity before the end of January.”
Jega announced that the deployment of the cards to states had started, adding that there were about 150,000 polling points in the country.
He said that elections would hold in all the parts of the country, including the troubled North-East, but added that this might be difficult in some local governments being fully occupied by Boko Haram.
The electoral umpire added, “INEC has always said it is preparing to conduct elections in all the 36 states of the federation, including the three North- East states experiencing the challenge of insurgency.
“The commission, however, will work closely with security agencies who have the constitutional responsibility for security .”
On whether Internally Displaced Persons would vote, he said that the commission was finalising arrangements to enable them to vote.
He said on Tuesday, the commission would meet with stakeholders to present its plans and get their input.
Jega also said that 14 political parties submitted candidates for the presidential election. But he did not give the names of the parties and the candidates.
For the senatorial election, where there are 109 seats. he said that there are 739 candidates. About 1,780 candidates, according to him, are vying for the 360 seats in the House of Representatives.
This makes the total number of candidates vying for the 479 seats in the National Assembly 2,519.
Jega said that INEC would publish the lists of the candidates for the state elections (governors and the State Houses of Assembly) on January 27.
Earlier, the Director, ICT Department in the commission, Mr. Chidi Nwafor, made a presentation to the party leaders on how the commission carried out the registration exercise.
He said that some voters used different names to register.
In his submission, the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council, Mr. Tanko Yunisa, commended INEC for its strict compliance with the law.
He asked that copies of the voter register be presented to parties to enable them to make their observations where necessary.
Reps ask INEC to allow TVCs for polls
The House of Representatives had earlier on Tuesday asked INEC to allow Nigerians with TVCs to vote during the elections.
It said in a resolution it passed in Abuja that it was unlikely that INEC would give every eligible voter the Permanent Voter Card before the elections.
Members of the House argued that allowing the use of the TVCs along with the PVCs was the only way to avoid denying many Nigerians their right to vote.
The call was one of the key resolutions the lawmakers passed as they reconvened on Tuesday from their Christmas and New Year holidays.
In another resolution, the House ordered an investigation into the recent allegation by the Department of State Service that the All Progressives Congress planned to hack the database of INEC.
The motions on the two issues were moved by the House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
Defending the motion on TVCs, Gbajabiamila, an APC lawmaker, noted that if INEC insisted on using the PVCs, many eligible voters would be disenfranchised.
Members immediately endorsed the motion without allowing further debate and asked INEC to make provisions for the use of TVCs in its guidelines for the elections.
Part of Gbajabiamila’s motion reads, “INEC has been and is still issuing permanent voter cards to eligible voters in replacement of the temporary voter cards issued to Nigerians about four years ago.
“Concerned that the general elections being just four weeks or 31 days from now, it is very unlikely that the commission will be able to distribute the PVCs to all registered and eligible voters before the elections.
“Disturbed that if the current position of the commission (that only voters with the PVCs are qualified to vote) is not addressed, many registered and eligible voters will be disenfranchised in the 2015 general elections to the detriment of the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
“The House resolves that the commission should include in its election guidelines for the 2015 general elections a provision(s) allowing registered voters with the temporary voter cards (TVCs) whose names are on record to vote during the 2015 general elections.”
Commenting on the resolution, the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, observed that it was the responsibility of INEC to give all eligible voters a PVC.
However, he said if the same INEC was unable to do so, it should not punish those with TVCs by denying them voting rights.
“If INEC registered someone and it is unable to provide the PVC, the voter should be allowed to use TVC”, the speaker added.
When asked whether INEC would allow the use of TVCs for the February elections, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu, said that all PVCs would be made available to registered voters before the elections.
Idowu, who was silent on whether TVCs would be used, said, “A motion was moved suggesting that option only if INEC cannot produce the PVCs of registered voters before February 14. The commission is positive that the PVCs will all be produced and expects voters to come and pick them.”
Idowu had told The PUNCH that 38,774,391 people had as of last Wednesday collected the PVCs.
The zonal analysis of the figure (34,774,391) indicated that the North-West and the South-West led the other four zones in the collection of the PVCs.
For example, in the North-West which has seven states, 12,013,961 PVCs had been collected. The seven states in the zone are Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina and Kaduna.
There were also 6,270,736 PVCs that had been collected in the six states of the South-West. The states are Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun and Oyo.
South-South is third among the zones with the highest number of PVCs collected with 5,756,018. The states in the zone are Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta.
Trailing the zone is North-Central with 5,520,001 cards collected. States in the zone are Benue, Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Plateau and Niger.
The House also on Tuesday agreed that the alleged plot to hack INEC’s database was a “serious” matter considering the fact that the database contained sensitive information on elections.
Presenting the motion on the issue to the House, Ogor, a PDP lawmaker, stated, “The DSS allegation relating to the alleged plan to hack INEC database is a very serious allegation.
“The allegation, coming at the heels of an election period, calls for concern that should not be treated with levity.
“The INEC database may contain highly-sensitive data and if compromised, can cast heinous aspersions on the integrity of the forthcoming elections.”
The House therefore resolved to set up a committee to investigate the matter within two weeks.
Meanwhile, Tambuwal has expressed displeasure over the high turnover of lawmakers, following the outcome of the primaries of the various political parties.
Addressing members as they resumed work on Tuesday, the speaker complained that the “returning number is far below expectations.”
He added that the failure of many members to secure return ticket for the next legislative tenure (2015-2019) meant that the House had again lost capable and experienced hands.
“We have lost a lot of experience and expertise”, he said to a moody chamber.
Although Tambuwal did not give a figure, findings showed that over 150 lawmakers failed to secure their ticket during the primaries held in December.
The loss cuts across the two major political parties, the PDP and the APC.
In 2011, only about 102 members out of the 360, returned from the 2007-2011 set.
Despite losing their re-election bid, Tambuwal still urged them to re-dedicate themselves to duty in the remaining months of their tenure.
The speaker said important bills such as the Petroleum Industry Bill, should receive urgent attention of the members.