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Voter Register: No New Name Added Yet – INEC Replies CUPP

INEC
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September 16, (THEWILL) – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reacted to the alleged voter registration fraud raised by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP).

The CUPP, on Wednesday, accused the APC of planning to inject fake voters into the country’s national voters’ register, in a bid to rig the 2023 general elections.

The umbrella body of over 45 major opposition parties, alleged that part of the plot was a lawsuit, recently filed before a Federal High Court in Imo State, to prevent the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines at the polls in 2023.

Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, the CUPP’s spokesperson, mentioned an example in Omuma, Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, where fake names and photos were allegedly introduced to increase the number of registered voters from 6,500 to 45,000. The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, hails from Omuma, the capital of Oru East LGA.

The coalition, which claimed to be acting on credible intelligence, alleged that “the coordinator of the illegal registration in Imo state, for instance, was a former INEC staff, who was the head of the state electoral commission and who has now been promoted to a resident electoral commissioner nominee, she supervised the ICT team that was deployed to Imo state from the pool of centrally trained personnel by the party.”

But INEC, in its reaction on Thursday, said it welcomes and respects the right of citizens to demand explanations from public agencies to hold them accountable.

The electoral umpire, however, called for caution “so that such interventions do not unwittingly sow doubts in the public mind, thereby, diminishing public confidence and trust in the electoral process.”

Speaking through its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, INEC noted that it was yet to add new voters who partook in the recently concluded Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) to the national voter register.

Okoye said not until the cleanup of the voter registration through INEC’s Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) is concluded, would the new voters be added to the general register.

The commission, however, admitted that more than 3,000 ineligible voters had been invalidated in an ongoing cleanup process in the Imo LGA, mentioned by the CUPP.

The statement partly reads: “It is important to reiterate that no new registrant has yet been added to the Register of Voters for the 2023 General Election or will be included until these supplemental activities have been completed, in line with the law.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we restate the main components of these activities. First, the Commission is conducting a comprehensive Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) cleanup of the registration data by scrutinising every record. Based on the Electoral Act 2022, any record that does not meet all the criteria for inclusion, as stipulated in Section 10, including the appearance in person by the registrant at the registration venue, with proof of identity, age and nationality and our business rules requirements of adequate number of fingerprints and clear pictures will be invalidated.

“Further, in line with Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, after the ABIS and clean up, the Commission shall appoint a period of seven days, during which the register will be published for scrutiny by the public for objections and complaints.

“Finally, it is only after the cleanup and claims and objections have been completed that the final register will be published.

“The Commission will continue to provide the public with updates on the progress of these processes, as we did through our Press Release of 12 September, 2022. The ABIS for the period of registration between 15th January and 31st July, is being concluded presently, and the outcome, in terms of multiple and ineligible records will be made public. For instance, in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, where the Commission allegedly registered ineligible persons, 3,316 ineligible registrants have so far been invalidated and the process is still ongoing.

“We appeal to the public to await the Commission’s display of the register for claims and objections to raise any concerns that they may have about the registration. We reiterate that our ABIS is robust and will detect practically all the ineligible records for removal.

“Nigerians should be reassured of the Commission’s commitment to the credibility of the electoral process in Nigeria. We appeal for your support while we painstakingly deal with the cleanup of the register and other processes that will guarantee that the general election in 2023 is free, fair, credible and inclusive.”