Residents of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, have turned ongoing voter registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) into money-making activity, selling positions on queues to persons wishing to register fast.
Some of the residents told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Friday at the Karu centre in Abuja Municipal Area Council that they paid to some people to get positions in the queue before they were registered.
Due to large turnout of people for registration, INEC officials at the centres devised the method of giving numbers to the people on “first-come, first-serve’’ basis.
However, it was discovered that some persons devised “smart activities’’ of arriving at the registration centres early to collect numbers from INEC officials and hung around to sell them to persons in a hurry to register.
Mary Johnson, a teacher, said that she bought a place on the queue to register on time.
Ms. Johnson said she paid N500 for the space, adding that she was asked to pay N1,000 but had to bargain for N500.
“It takes a whole day to register and I have to go to work, so when I learnt that I could buy a space, I was happy.
“I do not think the officials are aware of what is happening, but we have found it as an easy way out since you can never come early to register because you will always meet people here.
“This is more so when some people come as early as 4 a.m. yet they don’t get to register until evening; so, to avoid that stress I preferred to buy the space,’’ she said.
Grace Benjamin, a nursing mother, said that because she could not afford to stay out for long, it was convenient for her to buy a number to register early and return to her baby.
Ms. Benjamin explained that she opted to buy a space on the queue after queuing for three days but could not register because the queue was “unusually long and the registration process was also slow’’.
She appealed to INEC to look inwards and proffer solutions to the slow process of registration by engaging more staff and equipment.
Andy Chuka, a trader, said that he had been regular at the registration centre for some days but had been unable to register “because some people always come earlier than me to take number’’.
“Here, INEC officials give numbers to people on the basis of first-come, first-serve; I was here yesterday morning at 6 a.m. I was number 96 but I ended up not registering.
“It was later I realised that they were selling queue numbers, so what that means is that if you want to register fast, you buy a number.
“I want the INEC staff to be mindful of the people they give numbers because some people collect numbers and sell them; somebody will come very early and get numbers, then they later sell them.’’
Udoh Sunday said that to get registered was more than a day’s job, adding that someone needed to leave other engagements and “give the whole day to the exercise’’.
“I have been coming here for two days now but I have not been able to register. Today, I came here as early as 4 a.m.
“I am number 44 yet it is about 12.30 p.m. and I have not been able to register. Is it fair?
“The officials are supposed to come at 9 a.m. but they don’t come early yet they close before 3 p.m. So, I am appealing to INEC to look into these issues,’’ he said.
Similarly, Gabriel Eze said he arrived at the centre at 5.30 a.m. but had not been registered as at 1 p.m.
“It is like one can never come early for this registration because whenever you come there will always be someone ahead of you.
“I am beginning to wonder if some people sleep here. For instance, I came here at 5 a.m. and I was given number 45 but yet I have not registered after nine hours.’’
Mr. Eze said that he went to Bwari Area Council first but could not register there and had to come to Karo “yet registering has remained a challenge’’.
One of the INEC officials at the centre told NAN but on condition of anonymity that they were not aware of spaces on the queue being sold.
“When we arrive here, we register the people as they come. Initially, the turnout was low but gradually it started improving and when more people started coming, we resorted to giving them number.
“The idea of the number was to avert commotion, which we noticed was beginning to arise over who came first. So, if they take number and sell it, we are not aware,” the source said.