It’s not new a skyrocketing allegation on Governor Yahaya Bello of double registration as a voter. The allegation states that Bello first registered as a voter at Wuse, Zone-II, Abuja on the 30th of January, 2011, and procured a second voter registration in Lokoja 2017. The counsel to the petitioner, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) hinged his proposition on Section 28 (1) (e) of the Electoral Act, 2010. The said section will be reproduced hereunder:
Not long ago Barrister Natasha Hadiza Akpoti Charged INEC and APC to Court and demanded that Governor Yahaya Bello should be disqualified based on the fact that he did double registration as a voter click here to read full details
28 (1) Any person who:
(e) by himself or any other person procures the registration of himself or any other person on a voters’ register for a State, knowing that he or that other person is not entitled to be registered on that voters’ register or is already registered on it or on another voters’ register commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding NIOO, OOO or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.
However, the above section can not be considered in isolation. It will have to be considered in the light of some other relevant provisions of the Electoral Act dealing with the subject matter at hand. Sections 12 and 13 of the Electoral Act will be very useful at this stage. While section 12 generally abhors and criminalizes double registration of voters, section 13, however, create some exception. The exception relates to a citizen who undertakes the process of Voters Card and Data Transfer from his previous place of registration to his present location. This process of transfer must, however, be done in full compliance with the provisions of the Act.
With the kind permission of my readers, I would love to reproduce the said Sections 12 and 13 and the two must be read together if the intendment of Section 24 (1) (e) must be kept.
12. (l) A person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter if such a person-
(a) is a citizen of Nigeria;
(b) has attained the age of 18 years;
(c) is ordinarily resident, works in, originates from the Local Government Area Councilor Ward covered by the registration center;
(d) presents himself to the registration officers of the Commission for registration as a voter; and
(e) is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force in Nigeria.
(2) A person shall not register in more than one registration center or register more than once in the same registration center.
(3) A person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (2) of this section commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding NlOO, OOO or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.
13. (1) A person who before the election is resident in a constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Resident registered voters. Electoral Commissioner of the State where he is currently resident for his name to be entered on the transferred voters’ list for the constituency.
(2) An application under subsection (1) of this section shall be accompanied by the applicant’s voter’s card and shall be made not less than 30 days before the date of an election in the constituency where the applicant is resident.
(3) The Resident Electoral Commissioner to whom an application is made under the provision of this section shall cause to be entered the applicant’s name in the transferred voters’ list if he is satisfied that the applicant is resident in a polling area in the constituency and is registered in another constituency.
(4) “Whenever an Electoral Officer on the direction of the Resident Electoral Commissioner enters the name of any person on the transferred voters’ list for his constituency he shall-
(a) assign that person to a polling unit or a polling area in his Constituency and indicate in the list the polling unit to which that person is assigned;
(b) issue the person with a new voters’ card and retrieve his previous voter’s card; and
(c) send a copy of the entry to the Electoral Officer of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered and upon receipt of this entry, that Electoral Officer shall delete the name from his voters’ list.
MY HUMBLE OPINION
Section 24 (1) (e) of the Act upon which the purported disqualification of Bello is hinged is not a stand-alone section of the Act. It must be read with Sections 12 and 13 of the Act whenever an allegation of double registration is leveled against anyone.
Once it can be proved by documentary evidence that Bello followed the process laid down for Voters Card and Data Transfer, then the allegation against him for double registration goes no to issue.
Premium Times, February 23, 2018, Agency Report, Fanwo, the Director-General on Media and Publicity to the Governor, confirmed in a statement he issued and circulated among media houses in Lokoja, that the issuance of the Temporary Voter’s Card (TVC) to Bello was sequel to a Form he (Bello) filled, seeking the transfer of his Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) from Abuja to Okene. This is an irrefutable proof that Bello has complied with the requirements laid down for the transfer of Voter’s Card and Data. Holding Bello liable for perceived administrative lapses of some INEC officials is tantamount to oppression and such practice is alien to Nigerian criminal jurisprudence. Thus, by section 13(4) of the Act reproduced above, the responsibility of ensuring that the previous data in a Voter’s Card are transferred to a new one or deleted altogether lies on the INEC where it’s established that the electorate has complied with the procedures laid down for such transfer.
In addition, there is a golden thread in our criminal jurisprudence that criminal liability is personal and cannot be transferred to another party. Thus, where it’s apparent as in this instant case that the perceived double registration is as a result of administrative lapses on the side of the INEC officials, Bello can not and should not be held liable to suffer for the mistake of another’s.
Nigerian Law School Head Quarters, Bwari, Abuja.