Underage voters during Saturday’s Sokoto State governorship election used fake voters cards, documentary evidence obtained during the election reveals. (Watch VIDEO below the story)
At the election, which recorded 728,108 votes cast, according to official figures released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), an unprecedented number of child voters are strongly believed to have voted.
A video showing Chinedu Nwagu, an observer from CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organization promoting public safety, security, and credible elections since 2003, reveals a brazen fraud perpetrated across Sokoto State’s 3,035 polling units.
“Officer, this boy has a card,” Mr. Nwagu asked the only police man drafted to secure Shiyar Rafi Polling Unit in Tureta Gari Registration Area under Tureta Local Government. He and another Immigration officer had been busy asking the minors to form an orderly queue with adult voters as the election process progressed.
“Wetin you want make I do now,” replied the officer as he made to evade the camera.
Taking a wild guess, the boy in question, Muhammed (first name) Idiris (surname), would be no more than 13 years old. But the laminated voter’s card in his possession which he tucked away into the breast pocket of his kaftan read he is an 18-year-old student who was born on January 1, 1993.
Moving closer to six seated INEC officials who were swarmed by minors, another visibly underaged boy was being cleared to partake in the election mandatorily meant for adults of 18 years and above. At his side was Muhammed (first name) Aliyu (Surname), whose voter’s card curiously declares him an 18-year-old student also born on January 1, 1993.
While they confirmed they are not twins or related, several other children’s voter’s cards had the same date of birth.
Despite this flagrant unlikely coincidence of dozens of children being born on the same day, month and year, the phoney cards in the possession of children, who make up a large chunk of the state’s population, were boldly presented to INEC officials who cleared them as bonafide voters.
The election rigging was however more obvious going by the date of issue on the children’s voter’s cards. Aliyu’s voter’s card claimed it was issued January 22, 2012 at 4:30pm, six minutes before Idiris’s was issued, also January 22, 2012 at 4:36pm.
INEC’s spokesperson, Kayode Idowu, indicated that what transpired at the polling stations in Sokoto were fraudulent.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Idowu said only voter’s cards issued before the 2011 general elections were legal for the Sokoto State gubernatorial election.
He explained that INEC did not adopt its updated register for Sokoto state; unlike in three of five states which held fresh elections following a Supreme Court ruling ending the tenure of governors in those states.
“The Electoral Act requires us to update an initial register 30 days before election which we couldn’t do because of the allowance we didn’t have,” Mr. Idowu said. “So though we have an updated register for Sokoto, we used the old register in place for the Sokoto election.
“Those who were not 18 as at January 2011 but who turned 18 and were captured for the update of the register sometime about a month or two ago, those people could not even vote in the Saturday election because we could not use the register that was updated for Saturday election”.
It would however take more than words to convince a host of civil society observers, including the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Centre for Peace Building and Socio-Economic Resources Development (CePSERD), the Organisation of Justice for Equity Sustenance, the International Republican Institute (IRI), Project Swift Count, and others who, at a meeting with INEC officials at the Sokoto Guest Inn after the election, collectively condemned the widespread underage voting they witnessed across the state’s 23 local governments.
At the collation of the election results from all the local governments the ousted Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Wammako of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was re-elected to another four-year tenure having polled an overwhelming 518,247 votes, easily edging to second place Yusha’u Ahmed of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) who got 131,048 votes, while Abubakar Yabo of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) scored 7,323 votes to come a very distant third position.