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Complaints Trail Nigerian Voter Registration; Electoral Commission says Situation Improving

A police officer provides security as Electoral Officials check voter registration material and election equipment at a distribution center in Lagos, Nigeria, 15 Jan. 2011

In Nigeria, voter registration entered its fifth day Friday – accompanied by wide-spread complaints. Potential voters blame delays on long lines, defective machines and inexperienced staff. The registration is being conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and would-be voters say the commission should consider extending registration to accommodate all eligible voters.

Kayode Idowu is chief press secretary to the head of INEC, Attahiru Jega. Idowu says some of the concerns have been addressed and INEC is on top of the situation, which he says has greatly improved.

“There is no cause for disappointment at all…. It is true that the first few days or so of the exercise were bedeviled by challenges.”

Those challenges included “ the finger print scanner not registering the finger prints and issues with the late deployment of equipment and manpower,” according to Idowu.

But, he says, “The truth of the matter if you ask today is that 85 or 90 percent of the areas where the registrations are going on are experiencing a smooth operation.”

Idowu says widespread reports of long lines and malfunctioning machines were being addressed by commission officials.

“I can assure you that people get registered between three and six minutes on the average. The issue of large crowds should be expected because we had a very bad experience in the first two or three days and because people came out en mass, which is evidence that Nigerians are voter conscious.”