INEC Should Do These Things to Clean the Voters Register

December 2, 2022

In November 2022, we reported how the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made the voters register available online for the first time ever for public reviews.  The review process shut down two weeks later on November 25, 2022.

In that time, we also highlighted some of the issues observed in the register — underage voters, double registrations and suspicious delisting of voters. With the process concluded, we have some useful ideas on how INEC can sanitise the voters register.

INEC needs to clean up its own house

Underage voting remains a criminal offense in Nigeria. Yet, more worrying is that INEC officials allowed these infractions to take place at scale. Even by using the eye test, one can tell if someone is up to the required age of voting which is 18 Nigeria. The officials responsible for registering underaged voters are yet to be prosecuted even though the  mess goes all the way back to 2011. If INEC is really serious about cleaning the voters register, it needs to start by cleaning its own house. Charity begins at home.

INEC should rely more on technology

Technology doesn’t solve all problems — even football that introduced the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to reduce refereeing errors still struggles with controversies. Yet, the benefits outweigh the challenges. For example, we know the extent of the discrepancies in the voters register only because INEC went digital.

It’s a good step in the right direction, but the commission can do more. At least that’s what the Lawyers for Peter Obi, a group that supports the Labour Party (LP), seem to think. In a statement on December 1, 2022, they urged INEC to employ modern software and artificial intelligence (AI) to help in cleaning up the register. INEC already uses the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to verify voters’ identity on election day. But it must also explore other options to stop underaged registeration fraud.

Consolidate database with the NIMC database

In September 2022, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) said over 89 million Nigerians had registered for their National Identity Number (NIN). That number is about four million shy of the 93 million voters that INEC has in its register. 

It might be a good idea to consolidate those two databases into one. One, it would resolve fake identities. Two, it could also be helpful in purging names of deceased people who still exist in the voters register.

Republish the voter register online more frequently

Admittedly, this is an issue that goes beyond INEC and may have to be amended in the electoral act. Still, it makes sense for the voters register to be subjected to continuous scrutiny instead of the current two weeks. It improves transparency and extends the time for reviews, claims and objections for a register with over 93 million names.

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