The main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has called on the National Electrical Commission (NEC) to unequivocally separate voter registration process from the civil registration, claiming that the move was a ploy by the ruling All Peoples Congress APC to manipulate the entire electioneering process in their favour, ahead of crucial elections in March 2018.
The party’s coordinator for National Voter Registration, Jacob Jusu Saffa, while addressing journalists last Saturday at the SLPP headquarters in Freetown, said since the start of voter registration on 20th March, the SLPP has been monitoring the process throughout the country, having deplored agents in all the 3,300 registration centres.
He they were disturbed by the slow pace of the process and that they were worried that in several registration centres, particularly in Kailahun, Pujehun , Kenema, Bonthe, and Bombali districts, the biometric machines have not been effectively functional.
He said the long time spent to register a person was primarily due to the fact that the voter registration has been merged with civil registration, which has no legal basis despite the fact that the SLPP and many civil society organisations had repeatedly called for a separation of the two processes.
He further cited the issue of low capacity of the registration staff, particularly the machine operators.
“The SLPP proposes that information requested at this stage be restricted to those required only for voter registration. We are urging NEC to separate these two processes in the interest of transparency and allow people to participate. There are reports of breakdown of machines due to battery problems even though NEC had informed all political parties that the solar panels can provide power for the machines for at least 10 hours a day and therefore no generator would be required. It is now abundantly clear that battery failure is key obstacle to uninterrupted registration,” said Saffa.
He added that before the start of the registration process, the SLPP had raised the issue of long distances to registration centres.
“SLPP is reliably informed that despite huge budgetary allocation of 209.534 billion in the 2017 budget, not more than Le10billion has so far been disbursed to NEC. This has constrained NEC to intensify its sensitisation campaign. There are media reports of huge donations by government ministers and other public officials from unknown sources to the ruling APC. Such huge donations is indicative of growing outcry of unexplained wealth, which should be subject to investigations,” he noted.