People began to notice problems as soon as Nigeria’s digital electoral roll was posted online.
Digital amateurs discovered many voter cards with photos of children. Some of the others on the initial list appeared to have registered multiple times by simply changing their face, clothing, or sitting position.
It is legal to vote at 18 years old. Crooked politicians may increase their support by having children registered and getting more votes.
Now, questions are being raised about the way these duplicate voters were able to slip through expensive facial and fingerprint recognition technology.
In the hope of eliminating problems such as these, details such as gender and age were collected at Inec’s registration centers.
Any discrepancies in the hotly contested February general election could make all the difference between winning or losing.
It is obvious that voter cards may have the same image as the person on them, but Inec staff couldn’t pick it up.
Sunny Dada, from the Institute for Media and Society of Lagos said that “it was so obvious that it doesn’t take any scientific process to determine the underage voters registered.”
Now, 23 Inec officers are being investigated over their possible involvement in illegal registrations.
Although it is not unusual for dead people to appear on electoral rolls, deaths aren’t always recorded. However, concerns arose when children registered multiple times and other issues.
With the advent of digital registrations, many of these problems have become more apparent.
It was difficult to create a national picture of the country in the past because only printed copies of the register existed.
The first digital registry allows anybody to view the information of 93.5 million voters – an increase of nine million since last year – registered to vote.
Young Nigerians with tech skills have accepted the challenge and developed methods to search through huge amounts of data looking for anomalies.
Twitter user digital detective says they found thousands of multi-registration addresses. Another tweets a prototype for an age predictor which could be used to weed out minors from the registry.
Jaafar Jaafar, a journalist chose to go a harder route and manually examine the names and faces of hundreds of thousands of people on the register.
He told BBC that any page with a portrait or landscape photo, as well as photos of laughing people raised red flags to him.
He said that some of the people who had previously registered more than once or were younger had been added to the waiting list for the first time in 2011.
The transparency of Inec’s preliminary digital register could be a sign that it is functioning, as Inec must respond to any objections to the names listed.
According to the commission, it was happy for Nigerians’ “help” in cleaning up the registry and would release a corrected list before the 25-February elections.
It released the initial list in November, but stated that it had cleaned it up within the three-month period following registration.
Officials claimed that they have removed 2.7 million invalid entries. However, duplicate or underage registrations remain to be discovered.
Many people have become disturbed by recent discoveries made by everyday citizens, and others have started to create a torrent of conspiracies.
Inec is accused of favoring the northern region, which has historically seen large voting numbers, in a country with vast population.
Many people have noted that Inec’s cleanup mostly affected southern Nigerian voters. Discrepancies led to almost 70% of all new registrations being invalidated in Bayelsa, for example.
However, multiple registrations and underage have been found in Nigeria. Many have also been discovered in the south.
It is a widespread phenomenon. There are many irregularities in the register,” stated Mr Jaafar, a northern Kano resident, who added that he was motivated to discredit such conspiracy theories.
These issues are worrying for many, including Mr Dada. However, Inec Chairman Mahmood Yokubu is trying to assure Nigerians they will not vote underage.
Nigeria’s electoral system has been plagued by problems in the past. It was believed that electronic technology would simplify things, but it has not always worked out well.
The initial online registration was completed by more than 7 million individuals. However, they were unable to proceed to a physical registration at Inec offices. There seemed to have been a lack of staff and equipment to collect voters’ information.
Millions of voters who have just registered to vote still do not possess a voter’s card, but Inec promises that the cards will be available by mid-December.
This will be the first occasion that results from voting units can be seen in real-time and sent electronically to Inec Headquarters in Abuja. The technology was widely praised after being used in state elections in Osun and Ekiti states.
Bimodal voter accreditation system is an electronic device which authenticates voters using fingerprints taken by Inec at registration. This ensures that eligible people can vote.
It is believed to make elections more difficult to manipulate. Despite repeated protestations from APC, the ruling party, that it may not be practical in rural areas with poor internet connections, Inec insists there are no alternatives.
However, the preliminary register shows that technology is not able to solve all problems related to credible elections in Nigeria.
We thought that it would eliminate the problems of multiple registrations and underage voters. However, we’ve seen that technology can have its limitations especially when corrupt officials are involved,” stated Mr Dada.