Reports that the National Elections Commission (NEC) has ordered a recount of the vote in Electoral District #4, Bong County almost two months after the October 10, 2017 elections have once again drawn into sharp perspective the need for a reliable and credible Voter Roll. It was the lack of a credible Voter Roll that contributed significantly to gross irregularities and fraud that characterized the conduct of those elections.
According to a local NEC official, the recount will be done in nine (9) out of eighty-four (84) polling places in District #4. From the records, the sheer number of recounts in these elections far exceeds those of previous elections.
Never since the elections of 2005 and 2011 have challenges of this magnitude been posed to the NEC in the aftermath of the conduct of elections.
The complaints were first brought before a local NEC official for disposition. He ruled against a rerun of the elections, probably for fear that such would have opened a floodgate of complainants seeking redress through election reruns. And although the complaints and challenges may have been serious enough to warrant a rerun, they were instead deferred to a recount of the votes.
Whatever the outcomes may be, it is an incontrovertible fact that NEC was and has since been unable to produce, for public vetting, copies of the Final Registration Roll (FRR).
According to NEC officials, electronic copies of the FRR were submitted to the parties on September 22, 2017 just about two weeks shy of the October elections. This made it nigh impossible for party officials to scrutinize a listing containing over 2 million names in such a short period of time.
And during the recent hearings at the NEC head office, NEC officials failed to comply with calls from complaining parties to produce the FRR. Eventually, the NEC dismissed the case put forth by the parties which was by no means surprising. Now the parties are expected to take the matter to the Supreme Court and it is not clear at this stage what outcomes will be derived from this exercise.
However, it appears more likely than not that a runoff rather than a rerun will be ordered by the Court. The key question, therefore, is whether these elections can proceed in the absence of a reliable Final Registration Roll (FRR). That is a matter which, in the opinion of this newspaper, the Court cannot give a response Sua Sponte (on its own volition), except, of course, it is raised by the contending parties.
Already, as though in anticipation of such a possible delay in the resolution of the matter, naysayers and prophets of doom firmly opposed to the consummation of the matter through the legal process have begun drumming up choruses of support for those attempting to torpedo the legal process for selfish reasons.
As sign of their desperation, paid lobbyists, in the likes of Riva Levinson and others, including former career diplomats, Congressmen and Congresswomen, were hired to write letters to Congress imploring the intervention of the U.S. Government to derail the ongoing legal process.
From all indications, their efforts are being handsomely rewarded with huge payoffs from the coffers of an impoverished nation still struggling to shake off the effects of the deadly Ebola virus disease.
We must warn – and we shall not fail to keep up the tempo – for the use of a credible and reliable Final Registration Roll, without which going into the runoff election will be an exercise in futility, with dangerous implications for the future peace and stability of our dear country.