The Independent National Electoral Commission has formally accused the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, of registering for permanent voter card twice, in violation of federal electoral law.
The electoral body said Mr. Bello acted “illegally” to have registered for voter’s card in Abuja and Kogi, but said it could not take action against the governor because he is constitutionally protected from prosecution while in office.
Mr. Bello’s criminal behaviour came to light when photographs showed him being registered for by INEC officials in his office in Lokoja, his state capital. He had earlier been registered in Abuja.
The electoral commission, INEC, made its position on the scandal known on Thursday.
“The Governor’s double registration and doing so outside INEC’s designated centres are both illegal,” INEC’s national commissioner and chairman voter education committee, Solomon Soyebi, said on Thursday.
The commission denied authorising any staff or citizen to “re-register him or any citizen or to do so outside our designated CVR centres”.
Mr. Soyebi confirmed Gov. 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 voters registration exercise, in his Lokoja, Kogi State, office.
He said the commission “is taking disciplinary action against the INEC staff involved”, but regretted the governor’s immunity would help him escape prosecution.
“As for the State Governor, Section 308(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) precludes INEC from prosecuting him while in office,” Mr. Soyebi said.
Nevertheless, his second and illegal registration now stands cancelled.
“However, INEC wishes to state that it has cancelled his second and illegal registration forthwith because our Electoral Law and the Commission’s guidelines make no exception for anyone to register more than once and outside the designated areas,” Mr. Soyebi said.
The spokesperson for the governor, Kingsley Fanwo, had said his principal had to register again in Kogi, because nothing had come of efforts to get INEC to transfer his voter’s card from Abuja to Kogi.
Mr. Soyebi did not address the alleged non-transfer of Mr. Bello’s voter’s card from Abuja to Kogi in his statement.
A group, Kogi For Change, in a statement signed by its chairman, Omeiza Yakubu, said it would take legal action in view of the illegality of Mr. Bello’s action.
“The impunity that unleashed the governor on the state is at work again and we are not going to take it lightly. As a matter of fact we have decided as a group to take the matter to talk. It is a criminal offence to engage in double registration,” the group said.