Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of deliberate plot to disfranchise Igbo people in the 2019 general elections. President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, made the allegation in Enugu yesterday when the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Emeka Ononamadu, paid him a visit.
Nwodo alleged shortage of registration materials in virtually all the states in the South-East in the on-going Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise. Nwodo said he had visited many of the registration centres and had come to the conclusion that the South- East is shortchanged.
“I am of the conclusion that INEC has deliberately denied this area of registration materials in order to ensure that we are under- registered. I say this not because I am the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, but I say this as a lawyer who respects evidence.” Nwodo, who said that the machines deployed to South-East for the CRV exercise were slow and not enough, noted that machines he saw INEC deployed in the Northern Nigeria for the same exercise were modern and efficient.
His words: “Let me use my home as example: I come from Ukehe in Igbo- Etiti Local Government Area. Last week, I went home to check what was going on; first I went to confirm whether my own voter’s card was valid and I was told that it is valid.
But my local government area had the presence of INEC in less than three polling units. In my ward, INEC was present in only one polling unit in my village and luckily it was my polling booth. “That booth has between 18 and 20 polling booths which are registration booths.
Now, there was only one machine in my ward; that one machine is in my registration area and unlike the machines I saw in the North when I went to the North which captures five fingers instantaneously. The machine in my registration area can only capture one finger at a time and it is two polling booths in one side and, therefore, it should be two registration centres, but there was only one registration machine.
“They had run out of laminating sheet and therefore everyone given a temporary voter’s card didn’t have it laminated and villagers who deal with palm oil and all sources of charcoal and firewood would have tendencies to mutilate the temporary voters’ cards before the election; if they don’t get a permanent one before the election. It may even be difficult to recognize their face or their thumbprint or signatures.
“Second, your staff were very hardworking, but the maximum registration they can achieve in a day was 48 people and there were twice the number waiting who were not registered. My projection is that in two days, they were able to register 96 voters against over 500.
“If you want us to pay to hire more machines, we are ready to do so. If you want us to pay for staff that you may not have enough to deploy to our places, we are prepared to raise money from Igbo but we feel shortchanged. “And information from the chairman of my local government is that this kind of thing is happening in other places where there are skeletal registrations. My question is, if there are enough machines to deploy to all the polling booths on the day of election, why is it difficult to deploy many for the registration? If you have logistic problems, we are prepared to help.
The local government is prepared to help; the state government is prepared to help.” The President General equally lamented that while Igbo were being disenfranchised in the South-East; over 11.6 million Igbo in Northern Nigeria are equally being discriminated from registration of voters, which he said is an inalienable constitutional right of all Nigerians.
Earlier, the REC, Ononamadu, said the visit was part of INEC’s outreach to critical stake holders in election process which Ohanaeze Ndigbo was one of. “We need a lot of opportunities to do more before 2019 elections.
One of our major objectives is to begin to build trust among critical stakeholders and also to create that openness of sharing of information so that every stakeholder can be on the same page before, during and after election.
“This we have tried to do using the party structures, the traditional leadership, and others of which we held numerous meetings before now to enable us understand what the key problems are, and the challenges that will confront us now and in 2019 so that we begin to work on them as early as possible,” the REC said.