A former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Lai Olurode, has revealed how he was nearly killed for trying to stop underage voting.
Olurode called on the Federal Government to ensure that registration officers, who are mostly members of the National Youth Service Corps, were protected at all times.
Prof. Olurode served as the INEC National Commissioner for the South-West from 2010 to 2015.
Olurode spoke with Punch in reaction to allegations of underage voting in the recently concluded local government election in Kano State.
“If the people can be enlightened, underage voting will reduce. There are certain areas of this country where even if they know the person is a kid, they will insist that the child must vote.
“I had to run for my life at one of the election centres in a part of the country because these people said children must vote or there would be no election at all. It is that bad.
“The APC government has a responsibility to deliver an election that will be better than the 2015 election.
“The Kano State example is a bad signal and a warning that we really have a lot to do and the voter register is key. The register must be clean, it must not have ghost names or underage voters,” he said.
He added, “In the course of my service to the nation during the Jega’s era, it was happening in many parts of the country but there are specific geographic locations where it is very common which means the problem can be tackled if responded to promptly by all the stakeholders.
“When you see community leaders coming to meet you with a prepared list of children to be registered and you refuse, you come under threat.
“In some parts of the country, when you refuse to register a child, they go away but in some other parts, the people are the ones who will demand that the child is registered.
“Some security agents look the other way or tell you to allow the underage voters to vote . In one election which I monitored , a commissioner of police said the presiding officer should ‘cooperate ’ with the governor to allow them to thumbprint.
“Of course, that election was cancelled. So, there is a need for voter education among security agents and others. So that when they are asked to do the wrong thing, they can refuse.”