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Advocacy grows for Nigeria to tidy up voter register, accept ID cards for voting

Categories Biometrics News  |  Elections  |  ID for All
Advocacy grows for Nigeria to tidy up voter register, accept ID cards for voting
 

A former Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, has highlighted the need for the country to thoroughly clean up its voter’s registration database if it must effectively fight electoral fraud.

According to the official, such efforts must be accompanied by the putting in place of a reliable civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system and ensuring a strong auditing mechanism of the electoral database. Early this month, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu launched a digital CRVS platform.

Jega, who was head of INEC in 2015 when incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was defeated in elections, was speaking during an event in Abuja to discuss the future of Nigeria’s electoral experience, Leadership reports.

The event was organized by Yiaga Africa, a civil society organization working to promote electoral integrity in Africa’s largest democracy.

In a presentation, Jega said having a clean electoral database is an important factor in improving electoral integrity. He stated that in order for Nigeria to have a voter database that can lead to credible polls, deliberate efforts must be made to review it.

He said when he headed INEC, he oversaw efforts, which included the use of technology, to ensure that INEC kept a clean register, but “there are still challenges.” Cleaning the register, he noted, includes expunging the names of dead persons and those who have permanently changed location.

Jega suggested that this is also possible if the government considers “policy, legal and administrative reforms,” that would, among other things, improve the electoral agency’s data management capabilities

“As we strive to improve the integrity of elections, we must also give priority to finding ways and means of improving the integrity of the register of voters,” This Day quoted him as saying.

Also sharing his opinion on the issue, Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, said data harmonization must be made a reality if the voter registration database must remain credible. He called for the putting in place of an inter-agency platform that will involve state institutions handling citizen data to make this work.

This way, he said, the voters’ register will be linked to other databases to facilitate identity verification and information updating.

In the course of the conversation, another problem plaguing the voters’ registration process in Nigeria was raised by an official of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Idris Ozigi: that of foreigners registering to vote during elections.

Ozigi said thousands of foreign nationals were arrested with Permanent Voters Cards (voter IDs) ahead of the general elections earlier this year. This issue was highlighted in a recent study which showed that biometric digital ID was contributing to migrant instrumentalization in Nigeria.

Accept ID cards, passports for voter identification

Meanwhile, during the workshop, Yiaga Africa officials reiterated a call they have made in the past for INEC to consider legislative changes that would make it possible to accept the national digital ID as well as biometric passports as credentials for ID verification, writes The Cable.

The organization has also encouraged INEC to make online voter registration a permanent feature and to improve on the functionality of the portal to allow for the remote collection of biometrics.

In the last voter registration cycle, online enrolment was highly encouraged but the capture of biometrics was done only at INEC’s physical offices.

Instead of printing PVCs, Yiaga Africa has advised that INEC should make it downloadable from its portal upon registration, or issue it as a printed document at polling stations at the time of voting.

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