The president said the quantum of complaints and the willingness of many people to wait for hours on the queue to register indicated widespread eagerness of Nigerians to perform their civic duties, hence government will appropriately encourage them.
He said, “The machines are slow in some cases. I believe that the training too may not be enough. I think the youth corpers were not properly trained. I believe we will get through these challenges. We will not stop until all eligible voters have registered. The complaints by Nigerians show that so many are interested in registering.”
The INEC chairman, who spoke when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters at the National Assembly Complex, said the commission was yet to take a decision as to whether to extend the registration time or not until it assesses progress made so far within the first week.
He said, “Right now, the major concern nationwide is whether we will be able to register everybody within the fifteen days. We believe there is no cause for alarm. We will make appropriate reviews and if it becomes clear that we have to take additional period to make sure that more people are captured, we will definitely do so.”
The INEC boss said lack of adequate hands-on training for the ad-hoc staff was partly responsible for some of the hitches experienced at the initial stage of the registration because the commission did not make adequate provision for training funds. He said, “There are challenges, and some of these challenges have to do with the level of training of the people who are handling the machines. We wish we had more money for more days of training, including hands-on training the machines. I know when I say more money every Nigerian will now laugh because people say that we have already been given too much money, but frankly we could have done better with more time of training because the more people are trained, then the better.”
Professor Jega also said INEC was yet to receive delivery of 10,000 DDC machines from Avante Technology, a United States of America-based company that was awarded the contract for the supply of 22,000 units of the machines. This, he said, compelled the commission to begin the exercise with 110,000 units which explains why registration could not commence in some polling units across the country. The chairman however assured that by today (Friday) two planes would be landing at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, with the remaining units of DDC machines.
He also announced the arrest of six persons whom he said connived with some politicians to move DDC machines to unauthorised locations. They would be charged to court, he said. On reported cases of double registration by some politicians whom he said are said to be moving people from one polling unit to another to register them, Jega said INEC has an internal mechanism of detecting double registration even if it is not done in the same polling unit. He said those involved in the act risk being disenfranchised and would face prosecution.
While expressing regrets at the slow pace of capturing finger prints before the recent upgrading of the software, Jega said those who registered without their fingerprints would have to go back and re-register, otherwise they will be disenfranchised. He said, “The reason for capturing ten fingers is to make it near impossible for double registration and as I have said, capturing ten fingers as we have planned it will ensure only the possibility of one duplication in five million voters. So we have to go back to that, otherwise the moment we register people without fingerprint, it creates additional problem for the checking of double registration.”
Meanwhile, in his address to the visiting Northern politicians, President Jonathan thanked the delegation, led by former PDP national chairman Chief Solomon Lar, for its support during the primaries. He called on the group to extend the same support to him in the April presidential poll.
Chief Lar, who spoke for the group, christened Jonathan Mainasara, which good luck in Hausa. He said the president’s victory in every geopolitical zone at the primaries indicated his wide acceptance. Lar also predicted overwhelming victory for Jonathan in the April polls, and he urged Nigerian voters to cast their votes for the incumbent president.