On Saturday morning, the police arrested an agent of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for being in possession of a Voters’ Register at a polling unit in Manchok Registration Area Centre (RAC), Kaura Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State.
The police arrested Samuel Semion after the INEC Supervisor for the registration area, Cletus Joseph, claimed that the agent’s action contravened the Electoral Act.
“We have received similar information from our officials in various polling units that APC agents have in their possession INEC Voters’ Register,” the News Agency of Nigeria quoted Mr Joseph as saying.”
“I want to categorically say that no agent is entitled to (hold) the Voters’ Register for any reason and anyone caught with it should be arrested.”
The Divisional Police Officer in the Local Government, Daniel Mbwale, then seized the document and ordered security agents to seize the documents from all APC agents in all polling units in the area.
Responding to the development, the Public Relations Officer of the APC in the LGA, Mathew Kuyau, said the register was distributed to all members of the party executive in the area who made it available to agents.
He explained that the measure was to enable the agents to verify the accreditation of voters by INEC officials but not to interfere with the election process.
Checks by PREMIUM TIMES have however shown that the police and INEC are wrong for criminalising the holding of voters’ registers by agents.
Under the nation’s electoral law, individuals and political parties are at liberty to obtain copies of voters’ registers from INEC and no law forbids parties from giving copies to their agents at polling units.
Section 15 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) reads, “The Commission (INEC) shall cause a voters’register for each state to be printed and any person or political party may obtain from the commission on payment of such fees as may be determined by the commission, on payment of such fees as may be determined by the commission, a certified copy of any voters’register for the state or for a local government or area council or registration area within it.”
Also, being in possession of voters’ register is not listed in the INEC manual detailing electoral offences prescribed by Nigerian Law as of December 31, 2018.
INEC had on January 7 presented the national register of voters to political parties.
The register was presented by the chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, at the quarterly consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja.