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Cablegate: State Inecs Prepare Fitfully for Voter Registration

DE RUEHOS #1313/01 3031343
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E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Before the announcement by the
Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) that nationwide
registration would be postponed until October 25, Poloff took
a swing through Nigeria's six Southwestern States to assess
the status of voter registration. State INEC officials told
Poloff that rechargeable batteries for the voter registration
machines would overcome the lack of electricity in many
places in Southern Nigeria. The officials had no
instructional materials available, but said that information
would be available in the newspapers and on-line. Well
underway in the States visited was the hiring of registration
workers; one Action Congress official complained that, in
Lagos, all registration workers were People's Democratic
Party (PDP) members. Just two weeks before voter
registration was scheduled to start, we saw scant evidence of
readiness to begin the exercise. Although the postponement
gave INEC a reprieve, voter registration still got off to a
wobbly start on October 25. In many places, INEC
preparations were languid at best. End Summary.

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2. (U) In late September, Poloff and Polspec visited
Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and local party
officials in the Southwestern States of Osun, Oyo, Ekiti,
Ondo, and Edo to evaluate voter registration preparation.
Poloff's trip preceded the decision, made at the end of
September, to postpone nationwide registration, scheduled to
begin on October 7, to October 25. According to Lagos State
INEC Public Affairs Officer Femi Akinbiyi, registration would
begin on October 7 in only a few areas, such as Bakassi and
some northern districts where registration did not take place
in 2002. USAID sources reported that registration commenced
on October 7 in parts of Delta, Cross River, and Taraba
States as well as the Lagos river areas, but in many
locations a lack of materials delayed registration.

INEC Holds Instructional Seminar in Abuja

3. (U) INEC officials had just returned from instructional
meetings in Abuja. Officials told Poloff they were
instructed how to implement "voter revalidation", the INEC
term for registration. The process requires all voters to
re-register. Officials in all states told Poloff that they
had seen demonstrations of the registration machines.

4. (U) In Ekiti State, State INEC Administrative Secretary
P. Olagbende told Poloff he had spent the previous day
meeting with local party officials from the governing and
opposition parties to explain the registration process and
demonstrate the registration machine. Olagbende said he used
a machine to print out a sample registration card. Olagbende
showed Poloff cards that will be used to capture the voter's
thumbprint, and explained the registration machine will
simultaneously capture each registrant's photograph as well.
The machine will then print the voter's registration card on
the spot. The biometric capture is intended to discourage
fraudulent and duplicate voting, Olagbende emphasized.

Registration Machines Nowhere In Evidence

5. (U) Although Olagbende told Poloff that he had a
registration machine, Poloff did not see the machine in the
Ekiti INEC office. With the exception of Olagbende, no INEC
officials in any of the states indicated to Poloff that they
had machines available with which to begin registration.

Batteries Solve Power Problem, INEC Insists

6. (U) Poloff asked Ekiti INEC official Olagbende if he
anticipated any problems stemming from the fact that the
registration machines needed electricity. Olagbende insisted
that power would not be a problem. Each registration machine
is equipped with a battery that lasts eight hours and
officials plan to re-charge the machines each night after the
close of registration.

No Informational Literature Available

7. (U) One constant among the state INEC offices was none of

LAGOS 00001313 002 OF 002

them had any literature or information about the registration
process or about the elections available for public use.
Poloff asked Administrative Secretary for the Osun State INEC
Office Michael Na'allah if he could show Poloff some of the
instructional materials available to registrants. In
response, Na'allah suggested that television advertisements
and information that will be furnished to the print media
would be the way the public is informed.

Hiring of Registration Workers Underway

8. (U) In all of the States visited, hiring of election
workers was underway, INEC officials told Poloff. In the
Ekiti State INEC office, Poloff and Polspec observed dozens
National Youth Service Corps and other job hopefuls awaiting
instructions. At the Oyo State INEC Office in Ibadan there
were no job seekers present; Public Affairs Officer Ayodele
Folami told Poloff the recruitment and screening of the ad
hoc registration officers would be done in the local council
areas to ensure that registration workers actually live in
the areas in which they are registering voters.

Political Parties Planning to Send Observers

9. (U) Poloff spoke with local party officials to gauge
their satisfaction with the registration process. Action
Congress (AC) party officials in Oyo and Ondo States told
Poloff they would send monitors to observe the voter
registration process and to report any irregularities to
their local councils and the public. In Lagos State, Israel
Opayemi, Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor,
voiced concern because all of the election officials
conducting the revalidation exercise are PDP members.

10. (SBU) Comment: Just two weeks before voter registration
was scheduled to start, we saw scant evidence that the six
Southwestern States were ready to begin the process. Nor
were we convinced by officials' explanations for how they
planned to keep the machines running in the absence of
electricity, although we did not ask specifically about
arrangements for generators. While INEC made some headway in
planning for the October 25 commencement, initial reports
confirm that INEC never caught up completely. In many
places, due to INEC inefficiency, voter registration began in
name only. End Comment.


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