Election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa has blamed the unsuccessful attempt by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to clean up Nigeria’s voters register on the inability of the National Population Commission (NPC) and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to produce reliable data’s of deceased persons and persons who have permanently relocated out of the country.
Yiaga Executive Director Samson Itodo who made this observation, Thursday in Abuja at the launch of a discussion paper on Improving the integrity of Nigeria’s voter register, regretted that the credibility and accuracy of the register remained a key concern for most electoral stakeholders despite efforts by the electoral body to updates and clean-up the register in line with legal requirements to improve the quality of the voter register.
“Consequently, there are still many persons who were legitimately registered but should no longer be on the Register, such as deceased
persons and persons who have permanently relocated out of the country.
“Part of the challenge with the clean-up of the register is that the National Population Commission (NPC) does not have reliable data on deceased persons. It is even more difficult to get reliable data from the Nigerian Immigration Service about Nigerians who may have relocated permanently out of the country.” He noted.
According to the director, one of the legends of the voters’ register in Nigeria is its inflation for political reasons through the inclusion of persons who are ineligible to be registered.
“This is a widely held view among politicians and the electorate alike. Yet, it is difficult to say by how much the register may be inflated. However, the repeated discovery of confirmed foreigners in the register, as well as a lingering problem of underage registrants, strongly suggests that the register may be inflated.
“Beyond registering the ineligible, there is also the lasting issue of multiple registrations. At the end of the last phase of CVR in July 2022, about 45% of all registrations nationwide, rising to as high as 50% in some states, were detected by the Automated Biometric ldentification System (ABIS) deployed by INEC as either multiple registration or incomplete registration.”
To address the issue, Itodo called for the creation of an interagency framework for the clean-up of the register to include INEC the lead in collaboration with the National Population Commission and National ldentity Management Commission, the National Bureau of Statistics, the Nigeria Immigrations Service, civil society and academia.
He went on: “The voters’ register should be effectively linked to census, civic registration and other databases for easy verification and updating.
“The register needs to be depoliticized by increasing citizens’ involvement in its compilation. Ironically, because of the mindset of politicians, the fact that INEC compiles the register immediately makes it prone to politicisation.
“Consequently, INEC should shift its focus from registration to management of the voters’ register. It should allow other agencies to collect data based on clear guidelines to procedure and quality of data and focus more on deduplication, verification and management of the data.
“INEC should commence full online registration of voters immediately.
“The existing portal should be equipped with all the necessary capabilities for registrants to provide their information, as well as to capture their biometrics.
“The portal should be able to return a message confirming the successful registration of a voter and offer an electronic PVC to be printed and laminated by the registrant.
“Discontinue the printing of PVCs and move the funds to voter registration. INEC should issue PVCs as paper documents at the point of registration, which can be printed and laminated by the holder. INEC should also offer downloadable PVCs from its registration portal, ensuring the necessary checks against identity theft.
“INEC should use specified identity documents such as international passports and National ldentity Cards for voting. This should be piloted in several off-cycle and by-elections.
“INEC should consider an independent audit of the voter register using qualified
external experts and organisations. This will build public confidence and transparency.