Voter registration: INEC’s unwholesome practices worrisome, say Afenifere, Ohanaeze, others

INEC-1

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum has raised serious concerns over what it described as the “haphazard manner” of the Independent National Electoral Commission in conducting the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration exercise.

It warned that the “unwholesome practices” of the commission could “distort the credibility of the 2023 general elections.”

The organisation also raised concerns about the application of technology through the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System and transmission of election results by INEC.

These were some of the highlights of a communique issued by SMBLF
after its extraordinary meeting held on Saturday, June 25, 2022 but obtained by journalists in Abuja on Monday.

Several calls, SMS and WhatsApp messages to INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye and the Chief Press Secretary to its chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, for reactions were not replied.

The SMBLF also committed to, in due course, engage with the appropriate presidential candidates and afterwards decide on which of the candidates to recommend to the peoples of Southern Nigeria, the Middle Belt region and indeed, all Nigerians of goodwill, for consideration at the polls in 2023.

The communique was signed by Chief Edwin Clark (Pan-Niger Delta Forum); Chief Ayo Adebanjo
(Afenifere); Dr. Pogu Bitrus
(Middle Belt Forum); and
Ambassador Okey Emuchay (Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide).

The meeting was also attended by former Governors, former Ministers, and former members of the National Assembly, traditional rulers, politicians and business leaders, former Ambassadors and retired top civil servants, academics, civil rights activists from the Southern and Middle Belt regions.

They included General Lekwot Zamani (retd), Obong Victor Attah, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Oba Oladipo Olaitan (Afenifere Deputy Leader),
Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (Chairman, Ohanaeze Council of Elders), Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, Chief Gary Igwariwey and Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw.

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Others were Dr. Godknows Igali, Dr. Solomon Arase, Sola Ebiseni (Secretary-General of Afenifere), Prof. G. G. Darah and Prof. Charles Nwekeaku (Secretary-General, Igbo Elders Consultative Forum), among others.

The communique reads in part, “The Forum notes the current upsurge in youth voter registration and implores all young Nigerians who have attained the age of voting to go out in their numbers to exercise their constitutional right;

“However, it condemns the haphazard manner in which the ongoing continuous voter registration exercise is being conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission in parts of the country; calls for proper management of the process and even distribution of the voter enrolment devices across the country, to ensure that all eligible Nigerians, in all locations, are registered to vote;

“Cautions the INEC, given certain disturbing reports, to abjure unwholesome practices that would distort the credibility of the 2023 general elections, particularly, in its application of technology through the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System and transmission of election results.”

The SMBLF also deliberated on the state on the state of the nation and worsening insecurity and resolved that “the state of insecurity in the country is worsening by the day, with devastating impacts on the welfare and livelihood of ordinary Nigerians, thus, calls on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to stem the tide and assuage the suffering of Nigerians.”

While denouncing the spate of targeted terrorist attacks on Churches and abduction of Church leaders, in the country, the SMBLF condemned the attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State on June 5 by terrorists, which led to the death of no fewer than 40 people.

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The organisation described as worrisome the hasty and doubtful conclusion by the Federal Government that the dastardly act was carried out by the Islamic State of West Africa Province.

The SMBLF also, “further condemns the incessant killings of the indigenous peoples and decimation of Communities in the Middle Belt Region, in particular, the current escalated war on Southern Kaduna, targeting Communities and Churches in Kajuru Local Government Area of the State, with reports of helicopters dropping weapons and supplies to the terrorists in their locations;

“Equally decried the continued confinement of victims of the Kaduna train attack in the terrorists’ labyrinth after 89 days as well as several other Nigerians who have been held by terrorists and criminals for months; calls on the Federal Government and security agencies to secure the safe release of all victims;

“Warns that the ambiguity of the Federal Government and the failure of the security agencies to decisively deal with these situations, buttress concerns that officials of the Federal Government and security agents are complicit in the security anomalies in the country;

“Warns that the continuous abdication of the s primary and abiding constitutional responsibility of safeguarding the lives and properties of its citizens, is an irresistible signal to Nigerians to exercise their inalienable rights of self-defence, by all means, in deviance of extant laws, which have not deterred terrorists the use of weapons even superior to those of the security agencies;

“Reiterates the imperative of state police in the internal security architecture of the federation and urges the Federal Government and the National Assembly, to ensure the requisite legislative instrument in this regard rather than indulging in meaningless lamentations.”

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On the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the SMBLF expressed great concern over the continuous closure of Nigerian public Universities due to the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities and urged both the Federal Government and ASUU to take all necessary steps to urgently bring this situation to an end and let the students return to their lectures, in the interest of the nation’s future and development.

On the outcome of the presidential primaries of the political parties, the SMBLF reiterated “its stance on the principle of zoning and power rotation between the North and the South, as the fulcrum on which the Nigerian Federation has, since independence, been premised.”

Accordingly, the forum commended the political parties, which in line with the need for national cohesion, equity, fairness and justice, have nominated their presidential candidates from the South.

The SMBLF also deplored the insensitivity of the People’s Democratic Party and other political parties, including Action Alliance, Action Democratic Party, Allied People’s Movement, New Nigeria People’s Party and Young Progressive Party “in nominating presidential candidates from the North for the 2023 election, in total disregard of the time-honoured principle of rotation.”

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