Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) resolve to carry out part of the voter’s registration exercise online has received the support of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), a civic group.
The group has also commended the ruling of a High Court in Akwa-Ibom State, which sentenced a Nigerian professor, Peter Ogban, to three years in prison, for election fraud.
Akwa Ibom State High Court 2 sitting in Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area sentenced Professor Peter Ogban of the University of Calabar in Cross River State, to three years imprisonment for the electoral fraud he committed during the 2019 elections in the state.
Ogban, a professor of soil physics and conservation, who acted as the Collation/Returning Officer during the National Assembly election, stood trial on two counts of manipulating and falsifying scores of election results in Oruk Anam and Etim Ekpo Local Government Areas in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his judgment on Thursday, Justice Augustine Odokwo, said it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of the charges and accordingly sentenced him to three years imprisonment and a fine of N100,000 for the two counts, respectively.
According to CACOL, ‘’all these were after a painstaking, diligent and commendable investigation, coupled with brilliant prosecution by INEC. We believed that elections are transparent when each step is open to scrutiny and stakeholders can independently verify whether the process is conducted honestly and accurately.
‘’The principle of transparency is linked to the fundamental right of citizens to seek, receive and impart information (which are elements of the freedom of expression), as well as the right to take part in government and public affairs. To this end, we were not surprised when this case was taken to court because we have a very strong faith in the judiciary.
“It is lamentable that the accused in this case is a learned professor who is supposed to be a very respectable person in the society who have been found worthy in learning and character but betrayed the trust reposed in him by the state.
‘’How can he mentor the young ones who look up to him for guidance? Little wonder then, why our educational system continues to produce half baked graduates when those who were supposed to teach them are engrossed in questionable and corrupt activities.
‘’Manipulation of election results had been with us since independence and it has robbed the nation of selfless leaders who were supposed to represent their constituency and have the backing of the people in their constituencies”.
Continuing, the group said, “we insist that, it is not only criminal and condemnable to betray the public trust that has placed such civil servant in a position of authority and control after much training, to simply betray such confidence reposed in him by manipulating election results for his personal gains without considerations of the remote and immediate consequences of his action on innocent electorates and the larger society such illicit actions may ultimately rob of desired effects.
‘’We want to commend INEC for the diligent prosecution of this case and the Judiciary for the landmark judgment. We want to believe that this case will not be a flash in the pan and other cases of electoral frauds will also be judiciously prosecuted and the culprits made to face the consequence of their acts as a just supper”.
The electoral agency’s logic behind online voter’s registration exercise is that biometric data capturing will take place at designated centres.
CACOL Administration and Programmes Director, TolaOresanwo, in a statement quoted INEC’s Commissioner incharge of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, as saying ‘we won’t require everyone to go to registration centres to go register. The new registrants will start their registration online and only go to the registration centres for the purpose of capturing fingerprints and faces.
‘’So, that lessens the period that people will spend at registration centres. It is only those who cannot do the online registration or don’t have the capacity to do so, that will go to the polling unit to complete the entire process but for those who are Internet savvy and have computers will start registration online and go to the registration centres for their fingerprint and face capturing.”
“We received the news concerning the modalities for the voter’s registration with great joy. We believe this is a step in the right direction especially coming at a time when social distancing is the other of the day. In developed countries of the world, technology has been used to carry out electoral processes from the beginning to the end.
‘’Voter’s registration, voter’s education and even election proper have been successfully carried out online in these countries. We want to believe this is also possible in our great country Nigeria, which prides herself as the giant of Africa.
“We want to commend INEC for this bold move and we hope the electoral body have took their time to think about the challenges and political sensitivities involved in online registration of voters. We hope the information provided by voters online would be protected and the online database would also be protected from hackers and other online marauders.
‘’We want to encourage INEC to carry all the stakeholders and political actors along in order to establish a register that would be respected, reliable and legitimate. The preparatory phase to commence the online registration process for the first time remains the most challenging aspect. Good planning in advance and timing is important. If the first attempt is good, the credibility of the process is established, and subsequent registrations will enjoy popular support”.
Adding, CACOL said, “we want to implore the federal government to make fund available for INEC to carry out this novel innovation, knowing well that the process would involve procurement of new machines, training and retraining of both staff and ad hoc staff members of the commission and other logistics. Paucity of funds can hinder the achievement of the responsibilities of INEC thereby jeopardising the whole electoral process”.