Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State, says he did not engage in double voter registration as alleged by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Bello, who spoke on AIT’s Focus Nigeria, said he was not even in the country at the time he was said to have registered a second time at the Kogi State Government House in Lokoja.
The allegation that Bello engaged in double registration was first raised in May by a group called ‘Kogi for Change’, who also threatened to take legal action against the Governor.
Few days later, INEC, through Solomon Soyebi, its National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education Committee, confirmed that Bello indeed registered twice — contrary to electoral regulations.
“The Governor’s double registration and doing so outside INEC’s designated centres are both illegal,” Soyebi had said in a statement at the time.
He clarified that Bello was first registered at Wuse Zone 4, Abuja, on January 30, 2011, but illegally did so again on May 23, during the ongoing continuous voter registration exercise in Lokoja.
He said the commission would “take disciplinary action against the INEC staff involved”, but “as for the State Governor, Section 308(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) precludes INEC from prosecuting him while in office”.
However, Bello said he never registered a second time as INEC wants the world to believe.
“I am urging INEC to further investigate this and tell the world that what they are alleging is false, else, I think more action will be taken about this. I will direct my lawyers to write INEC to prove this,” Bello said.
“INEC needs a lot to prove; they need to prove this beyond reasonable doubt, because it’s not a matter I’m going to let go. They really need to prove to the world that I engaged in double registration.
“Of course the first one exists, the purported second one, they should bring it out, display it to the world, all the processes and the documents that I gave when I was carrying out this second registration.
“I’ve come out very clearly that that particular period, I was not even in the country and I’ve proven it with verifiable document. Now they need to equally prove that I carried out a second registration in government house in Lokoja there.
“And if they are alluding that somebody is tampering or has tampered with their data bank, that is very dangerous, because INEC is telling us that it’s possible for anybody to compromise its system.
“That is why Nigerians should not allow this to lie low and I’m not going to allow this, because it means our data is not safe in their hands. What then is going to be the integrity of subsequent elections.
“And if what they are alleging (against me) is false, which I know it is, then those who came out to malign me and say certain things that are not correct need to be punished in order to serve as a deterrent to others.”
Bello said nobody from INEC ever contacted him to ascertain the authenticity of the allegations.
“If they so claimed that I am enjoying immunity, at least I am not above investigation, you can investigate me but you cannot prosecute me because of immunity.
“You should have reached out to this particular person that you are claiming has engaged in double registration. No written letter (from INEC) no verbal communication, nothing whatsoever.”
Last week, INEC said it had disciplined three of its personnel who allegedly played various roles in Bello’s second registration.
Two of them were summarily dismissed while the other was recommended for “immediate and compulsory retirement” for “acts of gross misconduct”.
However details of the investigation that led to the sack of the INEC officials were not made public, and the identity of the disciplined INEC staff were were not revealed.
“If they (INEC) can come out in public to say that Yahaya Bello, the Governor of Kogi State, has engaged in double registration, and they have investigated their staff and are sacking them and retiring one, then they should make public the details of that investigation,” Bello said.
He said that any such investigation would be one-sided since nobody contacted him to get his own side of the story, “and the whole world needs to really see what was investigated, the process and how the conclusion was reached”.