The Independent National Electoral Commission has said that it is unable to remove the names of dead persons from the voter register due to the absence of reliable data of births and deaths to rely on in expunging the names of such persons.
This implies that Nigeria may go into the 2023 general elections with a faulty voter register. This is compounded by allegations by some stakeholders that there are multiple registration and underage persons on the register.
They pointed out that a faulty register could affect the credibility of the elections as well as make the commission incur unnecessary costs, given that the commission might have to print ballot papers for the registered voters.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the commission could not remove names arbitrarily. He, therefore, asked Nigerians to support the commission in cleaning up the register.
Okoye said, “The commission displays the voter register for claims and objections but few Nigerians pay attention to the process. Nigerians must assist the commission to clean up the voter register by coming forward to point out deceased individuals or those that are not supposed to be in the voter register.
“Secondly, the country does not have reliable data of births and deaths and the commission cannot engage in arbitrary removal of the names of individuals it suspects are deceased.
“Our new software currently in use has been robust and has been detecting multiple registrants. We as a people and as a country must not condone and or connive in community aided and politically motivated under age registration. This commission is resolved and determined to prosecute all electoral infractions.”
Confronted by the compelling need to sanitise the register, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had on September 24 asked the National Population Commission to periodically provide the commission with the data of deceased persons to update the voter register.
Yakubu had in 2018 made a similar request when he visited the then Chairman of the NPC, Mr Eze Duruijeoma, saying the cleanup was crucial for the 2019 elections.
But speaking in September when the Chairman of the NPC, Isa Kwarra, visited him at the INEC headquarters, Mahmood stated, “At present, technology cannot help us to identify and remove dead persons from the voter register.
“Therefore, I wish to once more appeal to the chairman of the NPC, in your capacity as the registrar of births and deaths in Nigeria, to periodically avail us of the data of deceased Nigerians.
“This is important so that we can use the official information from your commission to further clean up the voter register. Perhaps, you may wish to start by providing us with the list of prominent Nigerians who have passed on, civil and public servants compiled from the official records of government ministries, departments and agencies and other Nigerians from hospital and funeral records across the country.”