Abuja — Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said Wednesday, in Abuja that the commission had successfully prosecuted 200 of the 870,000 electoral offenders.
Jega who spoke at the INEC/civil society dialogue on plans and progress toward the 2015 elections, also said the commission was ready to issue permanent electronic voters' card that would be valid for 10 years.
He explained that the prosecution of electoral offenders was in respect of offences arising from the 2011 voters registration and general elections.
Jega said the prosecution had been "a big problem" because of paucity of fund and manpower.
He said: "In actual fact, some of those apprehended have been prosecuted and convicted but the number is just too small compared to those remaining. A youth corps member was also prosecuted and sentenced in Ondo for electoral manipulation."
He noted that the police was in charge of prosecuting offenders until it was handed over to INEC, adding that the task was beyond the capacity of INEC and should not be left with the commission.
He said if INEC was saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders, its major mandate would suffer because the quantum of offenders would be too much for the commission.
Jega called on government to work on the "Uwais panel report, on electoral reform, that recommended that a separate body should be set up to handle electoral offences."
On permanent voters' card
On the permanent voters' card, the INEC boss said: "With the design of the card and specification it will serve for an average of 10 years, as it could also be used for the 2019 elections."
He said inAbujathat the electronic voters' card would eliminate electoral fraud and ensure credible and transparent polls as a result of the features on the electronic card, which, he added, included micro testing security, hologram, finger prints.
Jega said: "The cards will be an electronic card to be used for identification, authentication and for voting, also it will prevent multiple voting and frauds."
The INEC chairman said that card readers would take the finger print and determine the legitimacy of the owners of the card and that it would be used during the 2015 elections.
He said with the introduction of card readers, matching the electoral manipulations and fraudulent activities of people buying voters card and multiple voting would be eliminated.
"There is a lot of work to be done, we have to procure card readers and we have started this, we have made budget for it and we are receiving support.
"This budget year we are buying 500 and under the 2013/14 budget we are buying the rest. So by 2015 there will be enough card readers to deploy to polling units to ensure 100 per cent authentication."
To begin issuance of card in 2013
Jega said INEC would commence the issuance of permanent voters' card early in 2013, as the contract for the production of 40 million voters registered card out of the 73.5 million registered had been awarded.
He said INEC was doing the last stage of the processing of the second batch of the contract and by the middle of 2014 all the eligible voters that had registered would have been given their permanent voters' card.
"There are 73.5 million eligible voters but for the first phase, we will print 40 million and another part of it for completion is in the budget for 2012," he said.
He said the idea of doing voter registration once on the eve of election was now a thing of the past.
"There is a continuing process of registration in which any person who is eligible as required by the law can go to an established office and be registered.
"There are so many processes of this globally and INEC is embracing the best methodology, which will be launched nationwide next year.
He said the beauty of the exercise was that most of the displaced people with adequate information and evidence would be re-registered.
"In Kogi, two of INEC offices were affected by the flood disaster, as we lost valuable items, but we must move ahead and will never allow the negative consequences of disaster to affect our job."
He said INEC has enough Direct Data Capture Machines (DDC) bought for the 2011 general elections and the commission has identified the quantity required for the exercise.