The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disclosed that issues of underage registration and voting in Nigeria cannot be completely prevented because officials cannot risk their lives to defy threats from community members.
There has been public outcry against the agency after pictures and videos emerged online showing apparently underage children voting during a recent election in Kano State.
While speaking on the African Independent Television (AIT) on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, INEC's Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, explained that the reason officials cannot prevent underage registration and voting in the region is that they are threatened by some members of the community.
He said when officials face apparent danger, they can decide to cave in to the pressure and report the issue when they are in a safe zone.
He said, "I agree that it is the responsibility of the registration officer to do that (refuse to register underage persons), but there are times that circumstances are such that where there is present and clear danger that he risks being assaulted or being killed, I think it will be unreasonable to expect him not to succumb to the pressure. But we encourage them to report immediately they get out of that dangerous zone.
"Even to the untrained eye, that child doesn't look more than 15, but in such circumstances, you cannot argue too much with them. The law says the registration officer is entitled to act on some kind of identification or birth certificate or proof of age.
"But very often, they are resisted, especially when there are lots of people there. They are challenged in a charged atmosphere and they are there without any protection.
"Many of them are there in strange communities which they don't know anything about. So, there is undue pressure on them to register at this point."
INEC can undo underage registration
Osaze-Uzzi further revealed that the agency has mechanisms in place to invalidate registrations that are made under undue pressure such as threat to life of officials.
He said, "It is not a complex process, you display the voter register and people come there. That is in addition to the fact that the registration officer can refuse anybody registration. But we don't expect people to risk their lives for what is essentially a simple patriotic service.
"But if they get away with that (getting registered) and the report is not taken, the second opportunity is when the register is displayed.
"The best opportunity is where higher officials physically look at each register as much as they can and those who are clearly not qualified are removed. So, it is a three-pronged process and there are different stages."
Osaze-Uzzi lamented that it's impossible for the process to be perfect, but implored the media and members of the public to assist the agency by exposing fraudulent areas and cleaning up the register as the 2019 general elections approach.