By Godwin Okoro
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aisha Dukku, yesterday denied reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had agreed to extend registration for Permanent Voters Cards by 60 days.
Addressing reporters, she said the Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, at a meeting with the committee had agreed to extend the registration, but not by 60 days, as this might conflict with the timetable for the general election next year.
She said the meeting held on Tuesday, following a motion from the House that the registration be extended by 60 days among other resolutions.
Dukku said the commission had agreed to examine the request of the House, and see how many more days they can come up with for the registration.
She said, “The resolutions of the motion were discussed at length and in response, the chairman of INEC saw with the House what is physically happening in our various constituencies. The number of people coming out for registration is unprecedented, and we cannot deny Nigerians wanting to be registered because it is their constitutional right.
“However, that registration of voters is one aspect. There are other milestones that have to be achieved, which include the printing and distribution of the voters’ card. And the printing of lists of all persons registered in all the 744 local governments nationwide.
“So, he said it would not be possible for INEC to extend the days we requested. However, they would go back and look at their timelines, and look at how best they can be able to make it to increase the days for registration.
“Mind you, they are already in court in Abuja. A court has stopped them from closing the date for registration on June 30. The court is asking INEC to appear on June 29. In essence, INEC would inform Nigerians as to how many days they will be able to extend the registration in view of other milestones that they have to achieve.
“The process is not just registering Nigerians. It involves other processes. Even cleaning up the register to clean out multiple registration and those that are not new registrants. The cleaning of the register is also another process which is their responsibility. In view of other milestones that they have to achieve, INEC is also going to look at the request of the House through the motion and tell Nigerians how long they would be able to extend.
“However on a positive note, they have also informed the committee that it would include weekends, they would also increase the daily time for the registration and also increase adhoc staff. That would also mean the machines to be used also would be increased.
“However I am standing as the chairman of the committee not as the chairman of INEC, so other aspects of it are basically administrative and managerial in nature which would be announced by the INEC chairman. So far that is what transpired in the meeting.
“The House in the motion requested for 60 days and that is what we presented to INEC. We are telling you the outcome of our meeting that took place yesterday. And INEC is going to sit and meet based on what the House wants from the Commission. And part of what INEC told the House through the committee on Electoral Matters is that they are going to look at our request. However, whatever happens they cannot be able to open the registration for the next 60 days because of other activities lined up before the general election. They already have outlined their activities and part of their activities are a must. Cleaning is a must. The display of the voter register is a must. They need time to do that.”
Earlier during plenary, Dukku had said Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu had agreed to extend the ongoing continuous voter’s registration.
She gave the update in response to the point of order raised by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu.
Elumelu, who expressed concern over INEC’s activities, had frowned at government’s agencies’ disregard to various resolutions passed by the House.
He said: “We passed a resolution on INEC by way of consideration to extend the tenure of continuous voter’s registration, which they had wanted to stop. And I’m also aware that the court of competent jurisdiction also gave a judgement to the effect that they are also urging INEC not to stop or end the continuous registration.
“But from the feelers that I am getting, it’s like INEC is even threatening to appeal against that judgement, jettisoning the resolution that was passed on this floor. So Mr. Speaker, I will like the chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters to educate us on the efforts that they have made. The second leg of the motion is for them to follow up and ensure compliance, that is the point of my order,” Hon. Elumelu said.
The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who presided over the session, explained that he had interacted with the Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters.
“I met with the Chairman, Committee on Electoral Matters, Dukku and she has briefed me and I told her she will brief the House today on how far she’s gone with the assignment that was given to her by the resolution of the House last week. The resolution was for the extension of the voter’s registration.”
In her presentation, Hon. Dukku who affirmed that the Committee had a meeting with the INEC Chairman, who agreed to comply with the House resolution.
“Mr. Speaker, as I earlier told you we met with INEC chairman yesterday (Tuesday) based on the referral to our committee we thought it was urgent so we invited INEC and Professor Yakubu Mahmood was with us throughout yesterday afternoon and part of what we agreed to was that he has already agreed to extend but for the court injunction he is to appear on the 29th of June.
“That notwithstanding, he said it has been guaranteed that it has to be extended, and not just extending but also additionally done during weekends. He has agreed to that and that he is going to make a statement very soon to that effect.
“That extension also involves additional machines, additional ad-hoc staff and of course he’s going to collaborate with the security agencies to make sure that that is also done. So all the prayers of the motion were approved and all members of the committee were there including the mover of the motion,” she said.
While ruling, Gbajabiamila, who commended the committee said if INEC appeals, the extension may be stalled but if it does not appeal the judgement, the 60 days’ extension as proposed by the House will be effected.