10 February 2013

Nigeria: FCT, Where Residents Shun Display of Voters' Register

Last Sunday, the Federal Capital Territory's (FCT) Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the display of voters' register in all the registration areas of the six councils ahead of March 16, 2013 FCT Area Councils' Election.

The exercise, expected to cover FCT's 639 polling units, including 77 sub-polling units, ended yesterday in the six area councils with a process to address the complaints of the intending voters.

Though FCT INEC Electoral Commissioner Mr Godwin Kwanga said at a meeting with political parties' representatives in Abuja on January 23 that the commission had completed arrangements to ensure a smooth display of voters' register in all the registration area of the six councils, investigation by Sunday Trust revealed that residents of the nation's seat of power were not adequately mobilized for the exercise.

Most residents interviewed at Kubwa, Federal Housing Estate, Nyanyan and Lugbe axis of the FCT said they were caught unawares by the sudden appearance of NYSC members by 8'o clock of last Sunday's morning, displaying voters' register at registration areas.

Corps members, who were deployed to supervise the exercise, observed apathy on the part of electorate because of long years of bad governance and neglect by elected leaders at various levels of government.

Loss of voters' cards

Ngozi (not the real name), one of the corps members overseeing the exercise in Kubwa, noted that some residents had lost their voters' cards and were not ready to experience the rigour of obtaining fresh ones.

"Most people that come have lost their voters' cards and they don't want to pass through the stress of going to court to obtain affidavit or police report. So, they just decided to jettison the idea of voting.

"I have not really attended to most people because they don't have voters' cards. I can't attend to their complaints without presenting their voters' cards and they don't want to make any move to address their problems by collecting court affidavit or police report. For them to correct problems concerning omission of names or wrong spelling of names, there is need for them to present their voters' cards as evidence.

"And by my own observation, people are tired of electoral process. They are reluctant to vote. I think that is the main reason why they don't want to collect affidavit. They feel that after going through the stress and voting during the election, when the person wins, there will be no change. I had to beg one woman who said 'I have lost my voter card. It is not my problem. That is their business. They should put anybody there. You can imagine such spirit. Nobody has the drive or force to perform civic rights. People are just reluctant," Ngozi said.

Another corps member, Albert, whose views tallied with that of Ngozi, explained that few potential voters came out to check their names on the voters' registers.

"All the electorate are supposed to come, but few are coming out for this exercise. Others are complaining that they have not seen the impact of previous elections in the country. People that register here are seeing their names, but most complaints revolve around loss of voters' cards and omission of names," he added.

Causes of tepid attitude to display exercise

On the factors responsible for the lukewarm attitude of voters towards the exercise, an Abuja-based political analyst Dele Adekunle blamed the development on apathy, poor awareness campaign and poverty.

"First of all, I think there is still voter apathy in the country, especially among the masses. Of course, you know that when it comes to election, majority of participants are the masses; the common man. When there is voter apathy. There is inherent unwillingness to go and vote simply because they believe that their votes do not count. Perhaps, political parties are still going to manipulate things to their own advantage. That is one reason I think is responsible for that.

"Beyond that, there is relative less awareness creation from the electoral body, talking about INEC and majority of political parties. For instance, within this vicinity of kubwa, I have not seen any electioneering campaigns. What I have seen are some posters here and there and not everybody is observant of many of these posters. When some people are out, they are inside their vehicles. They do not have the time to even look and seek what posters are pasted on the walls around them. I think there is little awareness. The awareness creation is not effective and adequate. I think that is responsible for that.

"Thirdly, I also think that the level of poverty among the people is high and an average person will say why do I need to border myself verifying the data when I can just spend that time staying at my business post or going for work or relaxation. They will say why do I need to border myself when I can use that time to source for money. I think majority of people are not well off economically and they see it as a very big problem for them to go and verify their data and that is exactly why most electorate who register for election do solicit for financial or pecuniary advantage by asking political parties to give them money or salt or things like that as a form reward for their participation in an election," Adekunle added.

Shoddy preparation

Speaking in the same vein, Ngozi lamented about the lack of provision of necessary materials and lack of or poor enlightenment campaigns.

"In this country, I will say we have a long way to go. For this kind of exercise, government is supposed to provide necessary facilities to enhance the job. We have to struggle for everything we are using. There is no display board. This is not a standard way of doing this kind of exercise. But there is room for improvement.

"Two people came to me and confessed that they had no idea about the exercise. They were just passing and asked to know what was happening. They complained that they never heard anything about the exercise. I think the electoral body ought to have enlighten people about the exercise so that people can participate actively.

"My advice is that they should put in more efforts on the need to enlighten people before commencing this kind of exercise. More so, the exercise ought to have happened at the weekend because most people are civil servants who have to go to office. We close by 5 p.m. By the time we are leaving, they may still be in the office. So, who do we expect to come? Only few ones will participate in this situation. Saturdays and Sundays will have been okay," she also said.

Essence of the display of voters' register

Muhammad AbdulGhaniy, an INEC official said the preliminary display of voters' register was meant to address problems such as omission of names, wrong spelling of names as well as issues relating to relocation from one polling unit to the other.

"The exercise is to enable voters who have had their data captured and who have all information concerning them recorded on INEC voters' register to know if there is any omission, wrong spelling or mistakes in their names or in other records.

"The essence is also to ensure that voters who have voters' cards know or ascertain their polling units where they belong and to ascertain if there is any need to update their records. Perhaps, a voter has relocated and he or she is not prepared to vote where he formerly registered, the exercise will take care of all these concerns," AbdulGhaniy explained.

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