The Chairman of the South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, has expressed disappointment with the Independent National Electoral Commission over its selective insistence on the use of Card Readers for election accreditation in the country.
The Governor bared his mind on Monday while receiving the new INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ebonyi State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu, who paid him a courtesy call at the Government House, Abakaliki.
Umahi observed with regrets that in spite of not having been incorporated in the Electoral Act, INEC had continued to compulsorily apply the Card Reader machine for voting in the South East, while sparing it in the North and some other zones of the country.
He described the development as unfair and a great impediment to the people of the zone exercising their franchise freely, adding that it has resulted in voter apathy.
Umahi further urged INEC personnel at all levels to desist from alienating themselves from the public they are meant to serve, stressing that such behaviour predisposes them to public suspicion.
Umahi said: “Let me raise a very serious observation in South East as the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum.
“I think INEC is generally hard on South East people during elections, especially our brothers that are posted to do our elections: the RECS, the HODs, the EOs, and I don’t think we will allow that to continue.
“The Supreme Court has said that Card Reader cannot be the basis for authenticating of those that will vote.
“But it is only in the South East that our brothers will be insisting that it must be.
“But when we go to Court, the Court will set aside such procedures and we continue to insist that unless the electoral law is changed, the voter register and manual accreditation remain the basis for election.
“And your guidelines cannot supersede the Constitution.
“This trend will be resisted in the South East because it doesn’t happen in other regions.
“We want to be treated like other regions, and you have to note it very well.”
The Governor however commended the INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, for his reappointment and confirmation for a second term in office, describing him as a man of integrity.
He applauded INEC generally for continuously striving to improve Nigeria’s electoral system, but challenged its officers to make themselves more available for interaction with the people.
Umahi added: “Another thing you people must change is that you make yourself incommunicado.
“Even when you are not conducting elections, you are not mixing up with the people.
“What are you people trying to prove?
“Is it that you are not part of society?
“You try to elevate yourself to be too pricey, and it should not be.
“This is too common in South East, especially with our Igbo brothers.
“We must stop this.”
While addressing Umahi, the new REC explained that he came to familiarise himself with the Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the State.
He commended Governor Umahi for his laudable achievements in the area of security, adding that it was germane for a free and fair election.
Chukwu further emphasised that his mission in the State was to ensure that elections were conducted credibly.
Chukwu was accompanied on the visit by top Management Staff and Heads of Departments and Units of the Commission in the State.