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2023: INEC should leave no margin for error

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FOUR months to the February 2023 general elections, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has little or no time for trial and error. The electoral umpire is bound to  be in charge of its game  at every turn and must  be seen  doing so by the electorate. In doing so,  INEC will justify not only enormous confidence reposed on it by Nigerians but also add value to  resources already committed to its cause from national treasury.

  SO FAR, no development has called the umpire’s preparedness to question  in this regard more than its recent removal of 2.7 million names from the voter register.

  ALTHOUGH Chairman of INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu, had noted that there were ‘culprits’ of double registrations during the last Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise, his reason ranks below par when interfaced with some unintended upshots the removal of names has   triggered. There are many of such ripostes including, for instance, a seeming admission of wrongdoing  by INEC when the body said it did it . This is so because if the names were removed for double registration, INEC should explain where it was when such fraudulent registration was going on right under its nose.  Was it looking the other way only to start crying wolf at  critical juncture?

  SOMEBODY would conclude that INEC is as guilty as those it deleted their names since it may have participated in whatever was their offence or that  even if the commission was innocent of complicity, it may have played into mischief makers’ hands, by failing to upgrade  its voter enlightenment campaign to forestall a number of intending voters as high as 2.7million getting caught, flawed  in one fell swoop – if the offenders’ action was down to ignorance.

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  THIS is why INEC should not only mark up nationwide voter enlightenment  but liase with  political parties and other interest groups in the public education mission. Parties  should also play their part in such exercise beyond just showing their members how or where to vote during campaign rallies.

  ALSO, in performance of its roles as sole regulatory agency in Nigeria’s electoral process, INEC, given its  enormous powers should be firm, forthright and prompt in tackling matters of impunity in political parties. Such INEC’s   powers must not only be exercised judicially but also judiciously, especially when they border on discretions. We say so because apart from its duty of displaying the voter register to enable those that registered cross-check their names against wrong spellings and allied matters, INEC ought to furnish Nigerians with relevant provisions of Electoral Act 2022 expressly conferring it with latitudes to ‘weed’ potential voters’ names from register.

  THE electoral umpire should not rest on its oars by stating  the wrongdoings or faults of those deleted from the  voter registrar. It must go ahead to tell Nigerians if and when the corrected voter lists are out, so that people will know who or whose names were removed, as well as their geographical spread. For in doing so,  INEC would escape from  blames like the ones  that has  followed  such sensitive exercise as ‘tampering’ with the voter register at a critical time as now.

 ABOVE all, INEC should state  the fate of those affected, especially as regards  how they could participate in the 2023 elections and vote  for their preferred candidates. We say this because, though INEC  may not know, smoking gun actions like that exercise lay dry gun powder under its feet in at least two ways.

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  ONE, nothing stops people whose names were removed from instituting class action against INEC in  courts to enforce their right to franchise. And woe betides the nation should an injunction restraining it from doing anything in connection with the elections pending determination of  outcome of the suit  granted. Two, politicians, being what they are in these shores, there’s no guarantee that there are no political party or its agents  already laying ambush in order to ‘strike’ INEC at a ‘bad’ junction. In doing so, any party seeking to exploit that massive removal of names may claim that voters whose names were removed, or at least majority of them, were all from its traditional strongholds.

  THE party may advance such illogic further by describing deleting such names as a political calculation by INEC to disenfranchise its core base in order to favour its opponents. We believe it’s too late in the  day for INEC to give room for such occurrence. This is why it should use every means within its reach to forestall such  occurrence.

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