A senior member of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the electoral body has begun a 12-day training program to prepare its officials ahead of the scheduled January nationwide voter registration exercise.
Nick Dazan, INEC’s assistant director of public affairs, said the training program will ensure the electoral body produces a credible voter register to be used for the general elections.
“The commission is doing an integrated voter training exercise for its senior management staff... [This] will end on Friday. The idea is to familiarize the staff about the importance of having a credible voter register, which will, in turn, give rise to credible elections, and about how to train other staff about how to conduct the voter registration exercise, which is likely to take place in January next year,” he said.
Recently, Nigerian lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment that would allow elections to be postponed until April. The elections are currently scheduled for January, but Nigeria's electoral commission has asked for more time to correct voter lists.
Dazan maintained that the training forms part of the electoral body’s plan to organize credible elections in April.
“The senior staffs were enjoined by the commission to take the exercise more seriously and to appreciate that only a credible register can give rise to elections that are credible and acceptable to Nigerians and members of the international community,” he said.
Both houses of parliament approved constitutional changes allowing elections to take place in as little as 30 days before May 29, the date a new administration is scheduled to take office.
The amendment still needs to be ratified by two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 state assemblies. The electoral commission has said it wants to carry out credible elections unlike the 2007 polls that observers said were badly marred by disorder, intimidation and fraud.
President Goodluck Jonathan is facing at least four challengers for the ruling party's presidential nomination.
Mr. Jonathan's predecessor, Umaru Yar'Adua, a Muslim, died May 5 following a long battle against kidney and heart ailments, and just three years into what was expected to be an eight-year presidency. All four declared challengers to Mr. Jonathan are Muslims. The challengers include Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.