Last week Tuesday, in an interview conducted by PUNCH with a national commissioner at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he disclosed plans by the agency to make the National Identity Number(NIN) a precondition for registering voters at the commencement of the exercise.
The NIN is the ideal. When we want to begin the continuous voter registration, we may consider it because ordinarily, a national identity card is what should be used for voting. When the PVC was introduced, it was meant to be in use for 10 years and the assumption was that within those 10 years, the national identity card would be in use by a majority of Nigerians. I can tell you that the NIN will be one of the preconditions for registration when the CVR starts. We are trying to harmonise all databases.
However, on Saturday, the INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education, Information and Publicity, Festus Okoye, has dismissed the report stating it was unconstitutional.
Sections 77(2) and 117(2) of the Constitution and the equivalent provisions in sections 132(5) and 178(5) gives the Commission the exclusive power and vires to carry out the registration of voters and it does not share this power with any other Commission, Agency or organ of government.
INEC is a constitutional body and its activities are provided for, regulated and circumscribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Its procedural approach to the performance of its constitutional duties is also regulated by the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) its Regulations, Guidelines and Manuals.
The powers of the Commission regarding the compilation, maintenance and updating of the voters’ register are constitutional and statutory and it does not share this duty and responsibility with any other organ or agency of the government and no organ of government or agency or party can impose additional registration conditions above and outside the ones imposed by the constitution and the law.
No provision of the Constitution or the Electoral Act makes the possession of National Identity Number (NIN) compulsory for voters’ registration. A registrant that is not under a legal or constitutional disability and presents a birth certificate to a registration officer will be registered.
A registrant that produces a baptismal certificate or a national passport, National Identity Card or Drivers License will be registered. A registrant that provides any other document that proves his or her identity, age and nationality will be registered.
As it stands, Nigerians can proceed to get a voters card without a National Identity Number (NIN).