On the 14 September 2017, three Sierra Leoneans sued the National Electoral Commission (NEC) over an allegation that their registration data is missing.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner of NEC, Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh, who is the first defendant in the matter disclosed that it is the right of any Sierra Leonean and that Commission is a “corporate institution and we have the right to sue and be sued. We have also filed an appearance”.
The three plaintiffs called on the Court to firstly grant an order directing the Defendants (NEC) herein to register the Plaintiffs and have their names recorded in the final voters register for the elections slated for the 7th day of March, 2018.”
Secondly, that the Courts grant an order “compelling the Defendants to produce the Final Voters Register in existence, containing the names of the Plaintiffs herein on or before the 7th day of September.” And thirdly, that the Courts grant an order “directing the Defendants (NEC) to allow the Plaintiffs either by themselves or their representatives and/or a Court-appointed Elections Expert(s) to inspect the Final Voters Register.
Commissioner Conteh said, “The matter is in Court. We are a law-abiding institution. We have also filed an appearance because these citizens have the right to sue the Commission”.
Another issue dealt with by the NEC Chair in the midst of the other Commissioners was that of the final voter register; wherein he said they did not hold the full electronic records for all the 3,178,663 voters but that they have taken action to complete the electronic records.
The number of voters with complete records is 3,155,143 out of a total of 3,178,663 voters as at 6th September. The number of voters for whom NEC must collect photographs is 23,520.
Commissioner N’fa Alie Conteh disclosed further that the data for the registration has been transmitted from the registration machines to the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA) database during and after the joint registration exercise.
The Commission then extracted data from NCRA to the NEC database to get the provisional voter register and the data was consolidated to sixteen electoral districts in the country.
For those whose photographs are not in the electronic data, it was disclosed that legally they are registered voters because their names and other details are there in the data, and that there is no law that says that voter registration should include pictures. Not having photographs does not make those people not eligible voters.
About the time frame for which NEC should do electoral activities such as registration, Commissioner Conteh cited Section 17 of Public Elections Act, which paraphrased that the registration of voters shall be conducted not later than six months neither an election or a referendum.
At the press conference, the NEC Chair disclosed that they have commenced printing of voter cards and that distribution will happen firstly in Western Area. The Commission is presently printing reference copies of the voters register for inspection.
By Betty Milton
Tuesday October 10, 2017.