The Independent National Electoral Commission says it has not ruled out the possibility of prosecuting the 1,126,359 persons involved in multiple registrations in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration. It said the figure represented those detected between June 2021 and January 2022 alone.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, told Sunday PUNCH in an interview that the commission would decide on the issue after the completion of the CVR, scheduled to end on June 30, 2022.

Notably, Section 114 (b) of the Electoral Act (2022) reads, “A person who presents his or herself to be or does any act whereby he or she is by whatever name or description howsoever, included in the register of voters for a constituency in which he or she is not entitled to be registered or causes his or herself to be registered in more than one registration or revision centre…commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both.”

The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had said on Wednesday that in the first and second quarters of the CVR, covering June 2021 to January 14, 2022, the commission discovered invalid registrations while cleaning up the register. This, he said, was due to multiple registrations, failure of the Automated Biometric Identification System and incomplete data.

While describing the situation as worrisome, given the time and resources expended, he pointed out that 45 per cent – and 60 per cent in some states – of registrations conducted during the referenced period were invalid and that the infraction happened in all the states, with no exception.

Yakubu said, “It seems that many registrants, either out of ignorance that they do not need to re-register if they had done so before, or a belief that our systems will not detect this infraction, have gone out to register again. This is despite repeated warnings by the commission against this illegal action. These invalid registrations will not be included in the register of voters.

“This development is worrisome because of the time and resources expended in handling these cases. Even more disturbing are the strong indications that some of our staff members may be complicit.”

Yakubu noted that it was even more disturbing that some of the commission’s staff members could have been complicit in facilitating the infractions despite stern warnings. He said the commission was reviewing reports on such staff members and had commenced a detailed investigation, which might include the prosecution of those found culpable.

He noted that specific registrants associated with the infractions by the commission’s staff members might also face prosecution in line with sections 22 and 23 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Okoye, however, noted that prosecuting over one million multiple registrants was no “tea party” and that some of the people did it out of ignorance.

He stated, “The commission has not ruled out the prosecution of multiple registrants. The commission will complete the registration before taking a position on the issue of multiple registrants.

“As pointed out by the chairman of the commission, some of the registrants did it out of ignorance, while some thought that our systems are not robust enough to detect them. Prosecuting 1,126,359 multiple registrants for the first and second quarters alone is not a tea party.”

Meanwhile, the commission has called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the bill seeking to establish an Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal for the purpose of handling electoral offences.

“The National Assembly must move and pass the bill for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal to handle cases relating to the arrest, investigation and prosecution of electoral offenders,” Okoye said.

‘Multiple voting no longer possible with BVAS’

Ahead of future elections, with the closest being the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti State, INEC said the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System, introduced as a replacement for the card readers, would eliminate multiple voting.

The BVAS, according to Okoye, is a more modern and robust technology used for the purposes of voter registration, accreditation and uploading of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing portal, known as iReV.

Okoye said, “The BVAS performs various and varied functions. It serves as an INEC voter enrolment device during voter registration, which was introduced to improve data capturing at the point of enrolling voters’ facials and fingerprints, migrating from the initial mono-biometrics of fingerprints to bimodal biometrics of fingerprints and facials.

“During elections, it transforms to the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System during voter accreditation. The commission has added facial technology to the existing fingerprint technology. With bi-modal authentication, no person can come to vote more than once, as the face of the person would have been captured during authentication. During result upload, it becomes the INEC result viewing portal used to improve the openness and credibility of elections.

“The introduction of technology in the electoral process in Nigeria has been impactful. From the introduction of the smart card readers for authentication of voters to the present Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System, the commission has continued to sanctify the voting process by mitigating incidences of electoral malpractices and strengthening voter confidence in the electoral process.

“The commission believes that technology appropriately channelled can reduce pernicious human interference in the electoral process. The commission rolls out its technological innovations based on its satisfaction of its robustness and fit for purpose.”

Asked if the commission had procured all the BVAS machines needed for forthcoming elections, being a new technological innovation, he said, “The commission is procuring the BVAS in batches and a substantial number has been delivered to the commission.”

INEC to deposit uncollected PVCs with CBN

Owing to the growing voter apathy, which manifests in the usual reluctance of Nigerians to collect their PVCs or vote during elections, INEC has said it will mop up uncollected PVCs and deposit them with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Asked if the commission had fixed a deadline for the collection of PVCs ahead of the 2023 general elections, Okoye said, “The Continuous Voter Registration is ongoing. The fourth and final phase will terminate on June 30, 2022. Thereafter, the supplementary voter register will be integrated with the main register and published.

“The commission has printed 1,390,519 voter cards for those who registered during the first and second quarters of the CVR. The commission has also printed a total of 464,340 replacement cards for those who applied for transfer and those who lost their PVCs or have defaced PVCs.

“The cards of those who registered during the third and fourth quarters will be printed ahead of the 2023 general elections. At the appropriate time, the commission will give the cut-off date for the collection of the PVCs and thereafter all uncollected PVCs will be mopped up and deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“The commission is doing its best to remain within the ambit of the law. Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory that the registration of voters, updating and revision of the register of voters shall stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by the Act.”   ,,

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Source: INEC in dilemma over prosecution of 1.1million multiple registrants

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