The Lagos State Government has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of illegally moving the Permanent Voters’ Cards of its residents who registered in the state to other states of the federation.
Consequently, the state government disclosed its plans to seek legal redress if the INEC failed to “provide satisfactory and convincing remedial measures,” which it said, would allow eligible voters in the state to exercise electoral right.
The duo of the state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeola Ipaye, separately made the disclosure at the weekend, insisting that the INEC was acting a script designed to disenfranchise the state’s eligible voters.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, the governor claimed that he had facts about what the INEC did with the state’s missing voters’ cards, noting that he would reveal the facts if nothing changed.
He said: “We have facts and I will begin to reveal them, the changes in price of voters’ cards and so on and so forth. Also, we have information because we are tracking these things, where our voters’ cards are moving to, the numbers that are moving across the states.
“So, INEC had better come clean because we are not going to accept this. The clear inferences to be drawn from INEC’s latest act is that it wants to disenfranchise as many voters as it possibly can in the state.”
Fashola faulted the official reasons the commission gave for the loss of 1.4 million voters’ data in the state, lamenting that it was unfortunate that INEC “does not have the device to recover data from its computer system.
He said the reasons for the loss of 1.4 million voters’ data, which included his name, his wife’s and millions of Lagos voters, had suddenly changed from double registration and business rules to system crash.
He said: “When did the system crash? We need to know because a system does not crash in bits and pieces even though I am not a computer expert. If the system crashed, why did it not take the 4.8 million voters? We are not stupid people; they must credit us with some level of intelligence.”
He asked the INEC and its officials “to stop hiding behind the finger and come out and tell us truly what the reasons are. They have failed without any logical explanation for it. The system cannot crash in parts.
“If you store data in one place, it is either you lose it or recover it. What is the integrity of INEC if it is telling us that it does not have a data recovery system? It will amount to irresponsibility if INEC does not have a disaster recovery system in a national assignment as important as the one it is handling.
“Lagos State has one. Every serious company, every company that issues our phone cards has data recovery system if they are serious. INEC has a lot of explanations to make and should stop hiding behind the finger.”
In a response the attorney-general said the state government had started looking into diverse ways by which it can engage the electoral umpire and ensure the protection of its residents’ constitutional rights.
He explained that the people of Lagos State had indisputable constitutional rights “to participate fully in the electoral process. On the other hand, the INEC has the constitutional obligation to facilitate that process.”
He argued that there “are no ambiguities. We are considering all options. What is happening now is clearly a breach for which the law provides redress. We hope that INEC will take very urgent steps to provide satisfactory and convincing remedial measures, failing which we seek legal redress.
“In Nigeria, Lagos has the largest voting population and it happens to be in opposition to the ruling party at the federal level. We fear attempts to deliberately disenfranchise a large number of voters here.
“Events thus far are fueling that fear. But we will certainly not be passive or helpless. Lagos is too cosmopolitan and enlightened to be trifled with in this way. I can assure you that we know what to do and when to do it.”
Last Friday, the INEC failed to distribute the cards in some of the remaining nine local governments in the state directing instead that voters in some wards, including Fashola to go and register afresh.
The distribution of Permanent Voters’ Card, which was first scheduled for between November 7 and 9 in the state was carried out in only 11 of the 20 local government areas while INEC promised that the exercise would be conducted in the remaining nine Local Governments from November 28 to 30.
However, amidst reports ranging from late commencement of the exercise in some local government areas to outright omission of names on the lists in various wards, the INEC pasted notices in many wards, including Fashola’s Ward G3, Unit E002 in State Junior Grammar School, Itolo Street, Surulere.
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Total Voters: 5