Irked by the sloppy attitude of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in conducting a fresh registration exercise in Ika South local government of Delta state, the people have lambasted the Commission for possible plot of disenfranchisement.
INEC had earlier declared that the data-base of Ika South local government was infected with virus, after the 2011 voters’ registration exercise in the state and promised to conduct a fresh registration exercise in the area.
But appalled at the inefficiency displayed by INEC during the exercise, the people who turned out in their large numbers complained that they could not be re-registered due to the faulty computer laptops, scanners and other accessories provided for the exercise.
Although they appealed to INEC to facilitate the fresh registration exercise to enable them vote in the forthcoming elections, they urged INEC to provide the ad-hoc staff in the various units of the 18 Wards in Ika South with up to date computer equipment for efficient exercise.
However an INEC source in Delta state has confirmed to Blank NEWS Online that the computers and their accessories provided for the fresh registration exercise in Ika South were the same used during the 2011 voters’ registration exercise in the state, adding that they had been dumbed at the Commission’s headquarters in Asaba.
Speaking on behalf of the people, Hon. Martin Okonta, representing Ika South Constituency at the Delta state House of Assembly who lamented INEC’s failure to issue Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC) to the people, solicited for an extension of time to enable them participate fully in the fresh registration exercise.
“We did all we could to mobilise the people who are predominately farmers for a fresh registration but unfortunately INEC equipment are obsolete and could not function effectively. The people are very pained about it. And as you can see this event ought to take the next one month considering the nature of the battered equipment they have. If the equipment were in order they would have been able to register about 10 persons in a day.
“We have been here since 08:00am till 01:00pm when the INEC ad-hoc officials arrived and at 04:00pm only one person has been registered. INEC should urgently provide efficient equipment for the exercise.
“We are appealing to INEC to take necessary steps to ensure that our people who came out for fresh registration are duly registered. It is the same problem in the 18 wards. They said they have virus in Ika South and could not deliver a single Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) and this is the dilemma we are in now.”
On INEC’s insistence that no electorate would be allowed to vote without the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC), Okonta said, “I don’t think INEC can stop a local government from participating in a national election. In state elections too, they need the voters’ card to vote. I don’t think they have the constitutional power to disenfranchise a local government from participation. It is illegal and not obtainable anywhere. So however they are going to do it the nation is watching.
“I do not suspect any sabotage. It is just that the equipment they brought were no longer functional because they were not serviced. Urgent steps should therefore be taken to service these machines.”
In some of the polling units visited by Blank NEWS Onlineon Wednesday, August 20, 2014, people were seen milling around the INEC officials who frequently battle with the registration equipment in vain.
One of the officials told Blank NEWS Online that they have started retrieving some of the faulty equipment to the Commission’s offices at Agbor and Asaba for repairs.
When contacted, the Delta state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dame Gesila Khan on Wednesday, August 20, 2014, said that appropriate measures have been put in place by the Commission to ensure that the people of Ika South are provided with new Temporary Voters’ Cards (TVC).
The REC said the people of Ika South would be allowed to use their Temporary Voters’ Cards, instead of the Permanent Voters’ Cards during elections considering the peculiarity of their case.
According to her, “We have met with the Dein of Agbor and his council of chiefs and we promised to send two machines each to the 129 polling units and we have done that.
“The intention is to declare the first set of the machines which would be replaced with the alternate ones while the other one is being taken care of and that is exactly what we are doing in Ika South.
We have two experts from our head office who are stationed in Agbor specifically to fix broken down machines.
“You should also expect that on the very first day of an exercise, there is anxiety, leading to impatience.
“I know that you understand the workings of INEC. You must be given a document at the point of registration. Local government elections are coming in October, certainly since the Permanent Voters’ Cards aren’t ready yet, they will vote with the Temporary Voters’ Cards.”