Over the last few weeks this newspaper has received a surge of concerns about the fate of the upcoming elections in view of the issues which we have unfailingly raised about missteps taken by NEC in the Voters Roll Update(VRU) process.
To be sure, those missteps have the potential to derail the successful and credible conduct of the elections. Given the above and given the proximity of the elections date the Daily Observer once again wishes to reiterate reasons why it believes the upcoming December 8 elections may neither be credible, transparent, free, nor fair.
In underscoring reasons for maintaining that the elections may not be credible the Daily Observer is not unmindful that unscrupulous elements would attempt to cause confusion by for instance blocking or denying access to opposition poll workers, illegally tearing down provisional vote count results to prevent journalists from accessing the information for on the spot reports, etc, etc. That aside, our attention is focused on the overall process. And our analysis shows the following:
1. Election is not an event but a process. As such, the processes involving the conduct of Election, especially Voter Registration, must be transparent and credible;
2. The process of Voter Registration is so crucial to the extent that the manner in which it is conducted determines whether an election is credible or not;
3. The existing Final Registration Roll ( FRR) derived from the 2017 Voter Registration exercise is associated with numerous inadequacies such as:
a. Thousands of Voter Cards are in the possession of individuals whose names are not on the FRR;
b. The names of many voters are recorded more than once (multiple registration);
c. More than one voters sharing one voter registration number;
d. Thousands of voters recorded on the Voters Roll without their Photos or images;
4. The Supreme Court in December 2017 mandated the NEC to correct these problems prior to the conduct of the Run-off Election but the said mandate was disobeyed by the NEC. with impunity. As a consequence, the result of the 2017 Elections was highly compromised;
5. Up to current, the problems associated with the 2017 FRR are yet to be corrected. In fact, the problems have been complicated by the just-ended “VOTER ROLL UPDATE EXERCISE” which, according to NEC, recorded on the existing 2017 FRR an additional 299,969 new Voters during a two-week period at the peak of the rainy season with the use of a mobile Registration methodology;
6. It is important to emphasize that in 2014, a mobile registration process conducted over a duration of forty-five (45) days targeted 111,000 persons but less than seventy thousand ( 70,000 ) persons were recorded on the 2011 Voter REGISTRATION Roll.
Hence, it is amazing that a mobile registration process conducted over a fifteen (15)-day period could have achieved the registration of 299,969 persons out of a projection of 300,000;
7. The just ended Mobile Update process was, for all purposes, a “New registration scheme” conducted by the NEC under the guise of a Voters’ Roll Update Exercise evidenced by the unilateral decision taken by the Commission to use Mobile Registration instead of the time tested Stationary update process.
8. The failure to use a Stationary Registration method rendered the NEC incapable of applying verification. A verification process entails the uploading of data at every precinct to ensure that a claim by any individual to the effect that he or she was not registered during the last registration would be verified prior to the inclusion of said individual on the Roll.
The absence of such a mechanism made possible the multiple registrations that occurred during the just ended Voters’ Roll Update(VRU) Exercise.
9. The current ECOWAS TECHNICAL TEAM has, according to informed sources, authenticated that the FRR is associated with numerous challenges. Insider sources further say the Team has also indicated that it is incapacitated to address the problems associated with the FRR because of the non-biometric nature of the database
According to the Team, a temporary solution can be found to address the problem of multiple registration. In other words, the Technical Team does not have a solution to the problem of Cards in the possession of individuals whose names are not on the FRR in addition to the other challenges indicated above.
10. To address the problem of multiple registrations, the ECOWAS TEAM, according to insider sources has decided to use FACIAL RECOGNITION. However, it is important to note that Facial Recognition cannot be effective because the photos or images in the NEC Database are scanned photos not live photos.
As the ECOWAS Team has reportedly correctly indicated, the VOTER ROLL is the greatest guarantee for a one-man, one-vote system. Without a flawless Voter Roll, the experts opine, no election can be credibly conducted.
Therefore, the possibility for the conduct of credible election come 8 December 2020 is very unlikely.
But as sure as the sun rises and sets and, as expected, supporters of this government will cry foul and impute unworthy motives to this newspaper for daring to flag a problem which has the potential to tear the nation apart and hasten its return to the dark days of yesterday.
In the final analysis, however, the ball is in President Weah’s court for it is he who shall take credit or bear ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of the upcoming elections.