Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of making deliberate efforts to disenfranchise Igbo people in the forthcoming 2019 general election.
Chief John Nnia Nwodo, President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, stated this on Monday while receiving the Enugu State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Emeka Ononamadu, who paid him a courtesy visit.
Nwodo said he encountered shortage of registration materials in the ongoing continuous voter registration exercise in all the states in the South-East zone.
According to him, this led to the conclusion that the South-East was being 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 PG of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, but I say this as a lawyer who respects evidence.
“The machines deployed to the South-East for the CRV exercises were slow and not enough, while the ones deployed in Northern Nigeria for the same exercise were modern and efficient.
“Let me use my hometown as an 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 gladly, 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 is 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 capture 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 is only one registration machine.
“They had run out of laminating sheets and therefore everyone given a temporary voter’s card didn’t have it laminated and villagers who deal with palm oil and all sorts of charcoal and firewood would have the tendencies to mutilate the temporary voters card before the election if they don’t get a permanent one before the election, and it may even be difficult to recognize their faces or their thumbprint or signatures.
“Secondly, your staff was very hard working, but the maximum registration they could 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 will be able to register 96 voters against over 500.
“To make matters worse, in the immediate vicinity of this registration area, where three other polling booths were within a three-mile radius, old people on Election Day would not be able to trek to those polling booths, especially when there is no movement of vehicle to go to the same place where they are now forced to register,” Nwodo said.
Nwodo further assured that Ohanaeze was prepared to give logistics to INEC to register people who turned out for the exercise and solve shortage of registration materials.
“If you want us to pay to hire more machines, we are ready to do so. If you want us to pay for staff to deploy to our places, we are prepared to raise money from Igbos,” he added.
Responding, REC representative, Ononamadu said the visit was part of INEC’s outreach to critical stakeholders in the election process of which Ohanaeze Ndigbo was one of them.
Ononamadu said he had gone round the 17 local government areas of Enugu and re-activated the mechanisms of continuous voter registration and noted that currently, Enugu State was not doing badly, compared to other states.