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Nigeria's Electoral Commission Accelerates Its Public Education Campaign - 2003-04-09


Some Nigeria voters are complaining that they do not know how to cast their ballots. They say they're concerned because the general election is just a few days away. But the Oyo state branch of the country's electoral body -- the Independent National Electoral Body -- says it has issued sample ballots for political parties to use to educate their supporters.

INEC says political parties are expected to show their members how to vote. Aliyu Marafa is INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Oyo state. He says sample ballots were distributed to all political parties.

A member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party -- Muyiwa Farounbi -- says he’s already seen a sample ballot. -- one that was displayed at a political rally for a PDP leader.

But with the elections planned for April 12th and 19th, some wonder how INEC intends to teach non-party members how to fill out a ballot. They say some have not even seen a sample of a ballot paper - and so far the country’s major newspapers have not published copies.

But INEC says it will soon begin working with the media on a voter education campaign. The group’s national chairman has reportedly displayed samples of the ballot papers on national television. Copies have also been printed on some polythene shopping bags .

An Oyo state INEC official says voting should not be difficult. Sampson Awujola is the assistant director and heads planning and research OF INEC in Ibadan. He says the 30 registered political parties are represented with their logos on the ballot papers. They are arranged in alphabetical order - from the Alliance for Democracy party to the United Nigeria Peoples' Party.

Voting is done through thumb printing in the box provided beside a party's logo. He says for a ballot to be valid, the right thumb print must be 90% inside the box. "What is important," he says, "is that voters must make sure that their thumb is right in the middle of the box - directly beside the party they wanted to vote for. It should not be on the symbol (emphasis)."

INEC also says voting more than once is criminal and will be punishable in a court of law.

Meanwhile a political analyst advises INEC to step up its voter education campaign since it has only few days until the polls. And INEC itself agrees that most voters have not yet been told how to vote.