The recent hide-and-seek game played between the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello, came to light when the former accused the latter of double registration.
INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Prince Solomon Soyebi, had declared: “It has come to the attention of INEC that Gov Bello of Kogi State registered as a voter for the second time on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in Government House, Lokoja, the state capital. His first registration was on January 30, 2011, in Wuse, zone 4, Abuja…The governor’s double registration and doing so outside lNEC’s designated centres are both illegal. For the on-going continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise, INEC has designated a centre in each of the country’s 774 local government areas including FCT’s six area councils. The commission, therefore, dissociated itself from the governor’s action, while it also pledged to take disciplinary action against its staff who did the second registration for Bello. We wish to make it clear that no INEC staff was authorised by the commission to re-register him or any citizen or to do so outside our designated CVR centres.”
The Commission later took the following decisions in respect of its own staff: summary dismissal of two staff members for acts of gross misconduct and immediate and compulsory retirement of an Electoral Officer for act of gross misconduct. But, INEC could not charge the governor because of the immunity the Governor currently enjoys under section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, as altered.
THE GOVERNOR’S CASE
The governor, Yahaya Bello, reacted to the above allegations from INEC, by stating that he was not in the country as at the alleged date of the second registration.
According to the governor, he had travelled on 19th May, 2017,to Dubai, on a brief vacation and he merely read of the press release. “Probably, it was my ghost that has done the double registration”, he told a bemused nation.
QUALIFICATION FOR REGISTRATION AS A VOTER
Double registration is an offence under our laws and which the Electoral Act, 2010, (with 2011 amendment), frowns at. The criteria for qualification for registration is clearly spelt out in Section 12 (1) (a) – (e) of the Act:
“12. (1) A person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person-
(a) is a citizen of Nigeria;
(b) has attained the age of 18 years;
(c) is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the Local Government Area Councilor Ward covered by the registration centre;
(d) presents himself to the registration officers of the Commission for registration as a voter; and
(e) is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force in Nigeria.”
It is not in dispute that the governor met the above criteria of registration. But, the bone of contention is that he is alleged to have done the registration twice. The Act in Section 12 (2) and (3) states that:
(2) A person shall not register in more than one registration centre or register more than once in the same registration centre.
(3) A person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (2) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.
Double registration occurs in subsection 2 above, where a person willfully registers twice, either at the same registration centre or at different registration points, while, the punishment under subsection 2 above is clearly spelt out in subsection 3 above. If the argument as put forward by INEC above is true, then the governor would have been guilty of double registration. If not, then, the said subsections 2 and 3 above, will not apply to him.
Assuming, governor Bello did his first and only registration at Wuse, Zone 4, Abuja, on January 30, 2011, and he needed to transfer his voter’s card to Kogi State, all that he needed to have done has been captured by Section 13 of the Act, to the effect that:
13. (1) A person who before the election is resident in a constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Electoral Commissioner of the state where he is currently resident for his name to be entered on the transferred voters’ list for the constituency.
(2) An application under subsection (1) of this section shall be accompanied by the applicant’s voter’s card and shall be made not less than 30 days before the date of an election in the constituency where the applicant is resident.
(3) The Resident Electoral Commissioner to whom an application is made under the provision of this section shall cause to be entered the applicant’s name in the transferred voters’ list if he is satisfied that the applicant is resident in a polling area in the constituency and is registered in another constituency.
(4) Whenever an Electoral Officer on the direction of the Resident Electoral Commissioner enters the name of any person on the transferred voters’ list for his constituency he shall-
(a) assign that person to a polling unit or a polling area in his Constituency and indicate in the list the polling unit to which that person is assigned;
(b) issue the person with a new voters’ card and retrieve his previous voter’s card; and
(c) send a copy of the entry to the Electoral Officer of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered and upon receipt of this entry, that Electoral Officer shall delete the name from his voters’ list.
The Act states clearly how voters’ cards can be transferred to the local government, not where one intends to vote. Also, section 117 (1) (c) of the Act states that:
117 (1) A person who-
(c) presents himself to be or does any act whereby he is by whatever name or description howsoever, included in the register of voters for a constituency in which he is not entitled to be registered or causes himself to be registered in more than one registration or revision centre; …..commits an offence and liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or to 12 months imprisonment or to both. (Underlining is mine).
My take on this on-going saga is that, INEC and other security agencies should carry out further investigations in ascertaining the alleged double registration of governor Bello, bearing in mind that the governor has openly confronted and challenged INEC to bring proof of such double registration. There is nowhere in our laws that a governor cannot be investigated, though he cannot be tried in a court why still holding his office.
– Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.D.Share this on WhatsApp