In its November 19, 2020 editorial headlined, “10 Reasons Why the Pending Senatorial Election Cannot Be Credibly Conducted”, the Daily Observer flagged a number of issues which it believed if not addressed could adversely impact the outcome of the December 8 polls.
Cardinal amongst the issues flagged was that of the integrity of the Voters Final Registration Roll (FRR). Central to this was/is the issue of Voter Registration which the Daily Observer noted was/is so critical that the manner and form in which it is conducted determines whether or not the election is credible.
In view of this, attention was drawn to the fact that the FRR derived from the 2017 elections was/is fraught with serious inadequacies. Amongst those listed included the following observations:
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;
Those were the key issues that political parties raised in their 2017 complaint to the Supreme Court alleging widespread fraud in the Presidential run-off elections.
The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the occurrence of fraud in the elections, ruled that the fraud committed was not of significant magnitude to warrant the annulment of the final results.
Nevertheless, the Court did rule that the FRR was compromised and accordingly mandated the National Elections Commission(NEC) to clean up the FRR before the conduct of the run-off polls. But that was never done and today the issue has once again resurrected and hangs like a sword of Damocles over the upcoming elections and its aftermath.
The team from ECOWAS, brought in recently to assist the clean-up process was done absent any consultations with political parties who are the principal stakeholders in the electoral process.
Further, it is not known whether the team has completed its work, nor the extent to which it was done. And it appears according to the opposition that the ECOWAS office in Monrovia has been acting in collusion with a grand scheme to alienate political parties, except the CDC, from participating in or observing the clean-up of the Voters Roll.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, December 2, the opposition parties declared the following:
“We would like to inform you that, even at the point where ECOWAS stepped in to help us clean the Voter Roll, the National Elections Commission still did not find it prudent to involve political parties in the clean-up process, or at least observe the exercise. This is utter disrespect of our role as prime elections stakeholders and the fact that it is our complaint that gave rise to the ordering of the clean-up exercise by the Court”.
Following the completion of the clean-up exercise, the list (FRR) should be displayed for public vetting before the conduct of the elections. This has still not been done, with four (4) days left to the December 8 elections. According to the opposition, this is suspect.
This is because, in the absence of such a listing, just how the public can be assured that those turning up to vote are indeed genuine and qualified voters is a question to which they say answers are needed but have not been forthcoming.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that the VR is non-biometric, which would enable the verification process and moreover photos on some ID cards are blurred and virtually unrecognizable.
Additionally is the highly flawed and corruptly handled Voters Roll Update (VRU) process, during which the NEC claimed to have achieved what elections specialists say is an impossible feat, registering 299,000 out of a projected 300,000 individuals at the height of the rainy season using a mobile process involving the use of vehicles on very bad and often inaccessible roads.
Fast forward to the run-up to the December 8 elections, opposition political parties have called for the resignation of the entire NEC Board of Commissioners. Political observers believe that is primarily due to the series of missteps committed by that body often in violation of the law.
One such example is the single-sourcing of the contract to an unqualified company in the absence of a competitive bidding process to procure election materials, despite being officially warned against it by the head of the PPCC, Roseline Kowo.
The PPCC head had pointed out that, aside from compliance with the PPCC Process, the said company had no history nor experience in procurement of election materials, which political observers say has implications for the sanctity of the elections materials, including ballots.
The situation has not been helped by rising public suspicion that some boxes containing ballots have been opened, although NEC officials have since denied it.
As the clock ticks towards December 8, with only four (4) days left, there are fears that the so-far unrevealed FRR could be a major source of contention that could lead to violence and instability.
But from all indications, NEC Chairperson Lansanah and her fellow Commissioners appear to have backed themselves into a tight corner and closer and closer into the crosshairs of very strong adverse public opinion, especially if the process turns out to be just a shitshow. And in case it does, they should be aware that history will judge them very harshly for, “The Writing is on the Wall, NEC”!