– says Africa Confidential
September 12, 2017 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
The 8th September 2017 edition of the respected Africa Confidential magazine has described the head of National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mohamded Nfah Alie Conteh, as “widely perceived as an independent man of integrity”.
Mr. Conteh has been subjected to intense pressure by mainly the ruling All Peoples Party (APC) and their apologists who want him to quit his post, six months into crucial presidential and general elections.
The Deputy Information Minister, Cornelius Deveaux, has mounted the loudest campaign for the resignation of the NEC boss, infamously referring to the latter as “negligent and incompetent.”
But Mr. Conteh has been prodded on by a large section of society, including independent and credible civil society organisations, to continue doing his work without fear and favour as NEC is poised to consolidate the democratic credentials of the country.
The under-fire NEC boss will be pleased that an authoritative and credible news medium like Africa Confidential, edited by respected journalist Patrick Smith, is pleased with his stewardship and publicly lauded his independence and integrity.
The magazine though was not so commendable of Mr. Conteh’s predecessor. “His predecessor Christiana Thorpe was widely held to be sympathetic to the APC after making decisions that helped the party,” it said.
Despite the unnecessary furore over missing data, NEC, last week, met the deadline of releasing the number of registered voters for the March 2018 polls, which it pegged at 3,178,663 (three million, one hundred and seventy-eight thousand, six hundred and sixty-six).
The commission assured all registered voters that issues raised during the exhibition and enquiry processes had been examined by way of manual reconciliation of the official voters’ register.
“Before the exhibition, NEC knew that there were 3,735 records of voters in Kono and the Western Districts that were missing some elements of the voters’ data. Some of these voters have had their data recaptured during the exhibition period, which NEC will be downloading shortly,” said the commission in a statement last week.
A source at NEC that didn’t want to be named because of the obvious partisan slant the issue has taken told Concord Times that “missing data is not a new phenomenon”, adding that in 2012 thousands more data were missing, including that of flag-bearer candidate for the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party, Retired Brigadier Maada Bio.
Meanwhile, during another appearance before a special parliamentary committee last Friday, the NEC boss, who appeared relaxed and unfazed, said: “ …We want to assure you [parliament] that what we have done we are satisfied that the process is within the law. The press release that we issued [last] week is ours, as the field data has to be declared within six months after the process, which is why we published that press release. I want you to know that voters ID printing is in process…”
He added: “Concerning the adjudicated list issue that is emanating from the ruling party [APC] we beg to differ. It is part of the process to weed out persons who have registered twice, for example. Of course the field data exercise is complete. We will not add or reduce anything again, except those who have died. We did not delete 51,000 names, as alleged. These are allegations. We also didn’t send extra machines to the south.
“Why do we do exhibitions after any registration exercise? It is to pick out flaws and concerns like we are now having presently. We promise you all that we are going to work on these concerns as soon as possible.”
Also speaking, Commissioner Aiah Mattia assured lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties that the commission did voter registration with the sole objectivity of enfranchising Sierra Leoneans. “We want to give you assurance that we had over three million voters, that far exceeds the voters compared to those of 2012. The issue of undignified comments about the process is actually not helpful, and we actually do not deserve that,” he said and added that manual data bases will ensure that no registrant would be disenfranchised.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Miatta French revealed that a total of 1,539 people double registered. “This is a clear attempt to beat the system, so know that if you registered twice, we have forwarded it the Attorney-General and Law Officers’ Department for possible course of action.”