Raymond Gukas and Jude Opara
Jos/Abuja — The ongoing voter’s registration in parts of Jos North local government of Plateau state yesterday claimed three lives, as soldiers opened fire on protesting youths.
This was as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blamed the hitches in the registering of voters on the limited knowledge of computer by youth corpers.
However, the development led to a temporary disruption of the exercise in Nasarawa area of Jos North LGA.
It was learnt that some members of the Special Task Force (STF) were escorting some of the ad Hoc staff of INEC who were believed to be Hausas to St. Philip Academy which is a Christian school when youths in the area allegedly pelted them with stones.
Christians in the area have consistently accused the military of backing the Hausa youths each time they came attacking them and they concluded that the STF members were escorting the Hausa youth to attack them.
Confirming the clash, state Police Commissioner Abdulrahaman Akano said: “It is true, the Christian youths started throwing stones at the army on sighting them and held one of the Hausa Fulani boys the soldiers were escorting.
“The rampaging youths killed the Hausa Fulani boy and the soldier opened fire in defense and in the process, the soldiers killed two of the rampaging youths, that is how the death was recorded”
Also, Commander of the STF Brig. Gen Hassan Umaru said: “Can you imagine civilian youths attacking soldiers, all of a sudden they started throwing stones at my men just because they saw them escorting INEC ad hoc staff that are Hausa Muslim. This happened in spite of my appeal to all the youths in the state to give peace a chance.”
However, both the police commissioner and the STF commander said the situation is under control and calm has been restored. “Though the incidence led to disruption of the voters registration exercise but that is over now the exercise is going on smoothly,” said Gen. Umaru
Meanwhile, INEC yesterday heaped the bulk of the blame of the crisis in the ongoing registration of voters on members of the National Youth Service Corps who are serving as registration officers.
National Commissioner in charge of Information and Publicity, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, said the Commission overrated the corps members by assuming that they should know the basic rudiments involved in the operation of computer-based equipment like the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machine. This was as INEC has begun to issue fresh instructions to the 240, 000 corps members on how to use the machine.
INEC’s internal bulletin released yesterday said a “software instruction” has now been sent out to Resident Electoral Commissioners and registration officers across the country, towards redressing what was described as “technical challenges”.
In many parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), many persons were stranded and waited for hours for the exercise that did not take place.
In the areas visited by our correspondent, either the few machines were operating at a very ridiculously slow speed or they were said to have packed up and so taken away by the bewildered registration officers.
“It looks like INEC is deliberately frustrating people from registering; in the entire areas across Lugbe village and the Estate through to Sabon Lugbe and the Aco Housing Estate where thousands of Nigerians reside, you can hardly see any INEC registration unit.
“We blamed Iwu but what we are going to experience if care is not taken will be more outrageous than what we saw in 2007, because we have started hearing of politicians taking the few functioning machines to their homes in the guise of going to re-charge them, it is a pity that the much respected Jega is about to become another Iwu,” one Alhaji Adekeunle Adelaja out of frustration.
Prince Soyebi who appeared on “Focus Nigeria”, a political programme on AIT television yesterday said INEC was as unhappy as all Nigerians after the great enthusiasm which the people showed in turning out in large numbers to take part in the exercise. He blamed the corps members whom he said the commission overrated that they should be computer literate but turned to prove otherwise.
“We assumed that these corps members should know how to operate a simple machine like the DDC machine in addition to the training that they had but unfortunately, they disappointed us; we discovered they could not and many of them had to be battling with it unsuccessfully”. Soyebi argued.
He however admitted that INEC failed by not paying the part payment to the corps members as agreed even as he blamed it on the difficulties in accessing bank facilities over the weekend.
Most of the registration officers were said to have been operating under sub-human conditions inclusion sleeping on bare floors, having little or nothing to eat and the security concern as some sleep in open school premises and classrooms.
However, Prince Soyebi assured that the process will improve as the registration officers get used to the operation of the machines; he also said INEC technical officials will be going round to ensure that any hitches noticed will be fixed immediately.
“A software instruction has been sent to Resident Electoral Commissioners to reduce the resolution of the scanners to enable the devices to capture even weaker fingerprints. It is also to be noted that scanners are averse to direct sunlight; the machines should therefore be shaded from direct sunlight to enhance performance.
“It has also been found out that the machines perform better when the registrant is standing,” the in-house bulletin said.
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