P.M. News (Lagos)

19 September 2002

Nigeria: Big Turnout for Voters Registration

Lagos — Lagosians have heeded the call of the state government and party leaders by storming registration centres in large numbers to take part in the on-going voters registration exercise.

P.M.News gathered that the state government has made repeated calls on its citizens to turn out en masse for the registration exercise and judging by the large turn-out, the call has been heeded.

A non governmental organisation, the Egbo Justice Group (IJG) in Lagos under Chief Chris Ekwilo has called on Igbos to participate fully in the on-going voters' registration exercise.

The organisation said the only way Igbos can ensure the progress of their business in the state is by ensuring that they are relevant in the political process. He said "it is time we get what is due to us in the governance of today's Lagos." This was contained in a press statement signed by Chief Ekwolo himself. Justice Group berated some political office holders who are selfish.

"They are only interested in what they can get not bothering to give back to the society," the release added.

The co-ordinator noted further that the Igbos in Lagos are more concerned with the peace and progress of the state.

"We have contributed so much to the commerce of the state so we will do all within our power towards ensuring that we give the government our maximum support," he said, noting that people should endeavour to register where they reside.

Meanwhile, there seem to be no end (in sight) to the barrage of threats and blackmails being issued daily since the commencement of the national voters' registration exercise as the executive secretaries (ES) of the 20 local councils in Lagos State have threatened to withhold salaries of workers who fail to get registered.

The secretaries, who addressed journalists yesterday noted that the salaries of employees of local governments, LGEA staff, staff of local planning authorities of local governments, pensioners and teachers will be tied to the presentation of voters registration cards.

The executive secretaries who spoke through Chief Ayo Akinyemi, of Ojo Local Government, pointed out that only those who possess the cards would also be admitted into hospitals and maternity centres, get scholarship and busary in all tertiary institutions , contract awards among other benefits.

"It is very important and exceedingly necessary for all Lagos State residents to take part in this exercise. Nobody will be able to vote or be voted for if he or she has not been duly registered. Furthermore, whoever does not register (and therefore does not possess a voters registration card) will not be entitled to certain benefits in the local government", the former council boss of Alimosho local government emphasized.

The Alaba International Market traders have, in the meantime, begun a 3-day holiday (beginning from Tuesday this week) to enable them participate in the on-going voters registration exercise.

Chief Leo Okafor, at a press briefing, explained that the traders were being denied their voting rights as only one registration centre was provided within the entire market. Chief Okafor lamented that only 38 voters cards were available for over 30,000 traders in the market.

"We thus decided to write letters to both INEC and the National Assembly, surprisingly we have not received any response", he said.

The executive members of the market association he said, decided on the closure of the market to enable the traders participate fully in registration exercise.

On steps taken by the Association to ensure that all the traders register, he explained that the association would lock-up the shop of any trader that refuses to produce his/her voters card.

P.M.News gathered that the INEC officials cause on Wednesday with 38 voters registration card, for over 30,000 market traders. The chairman said in that the Alaba traders deserve an explanation from the government on why they are being denied their voting right.

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