March 21, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi in Kenema
NEC staff at Combama troubled by biometric machine
One of the faulty machines displayed
This system was corrupt by virus
The National Electoral Commission (NEC), yesterday started the biometric voter registration exercise across the country for the forthcoming general elections scheduled for March 7, 2018.
The Commission is expected to register eligible voters and also share part of the information with the National Civil Registration Authority as part of keeping records of all Sierra Leoneans.
In the eastern district town of Kenema, the exercise started with mix feelings especially among residents and political party representatives.
The Kenema district executive of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party, SLPP yesterday stormed the offices of NEC in protest against what they described as “major issues’’ in the registration exercise.
The party District Chairman, Moriba Koroma, bitterly complained to NEC officers that the registration process was extremely slow, and that people complained that a good number of the questions were not easily comprehended by them.
He said they also complained that the biometric machines in most of the centres were not operational ,claiming that faulty machines were sent to the opposition strongholds so that their people would be deprived of registering and vote for the political party of their choice.
Meanwhile, Assistant District Electoral Officer, Francis Balama Musa, assured members of the SLPP that they would do their best to ensure that eligible voters register.
“This is the beginning of the exercise. I am sure most of these problems would be solved before the process comes to an end,” he assured.
Meanwhile, residents outside Kenema town also complained that the process was slow and that the machines were completely out of order.
At the Combama voter registration centre, one Charles M Bockarie, complained to journalists and personnel from the National Elections Watch NEW that registration materials could not reach the centre early, adding that since the voter exercise started by 9:30 am, only a few people registered before the closure of the centre by 6:000 pm.
He said one of the major issues was the difficulty in capturing the image and the finger print of individuals, adding that it would be very necessary for NEC to provide backup machines so that the exercise could be accelerated.
“We are here to carry out our constitutional mandate as citizens of this country. Government should be able to provide the enabling environment for effective and efficient voter registration process. It is unfortunate that we are going through these huddles because we were the first set of people that came here this morning. It is now 2:00 pm and the queue is still long,” he noted.
In constituency 16, ward 36 in the Kenema district, three villages have to move over to Jumu Kafaibu village to register and residents of those villages including Ngombu, Boboibu and Baoya were concerned about the distance to the registration centre.
Aminata Saffa said NEC did not undertake massive voter registration campaign, and that most of the questions posed by enumerators were very difficult to understand, especially when most of them were not educated.
In Koi village, some seven miles away from Kenema, James Umaru, NEC Assistance Registrar , said they have complained to the district head office about the difficulties they were faced with, noting that the biometric machine only captured the image of some people but could not capture their finger prints.
‘’We are trying our best to do a diligent work but the biometric machine is not helping the situation,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Head of the National Elections Watch (NEW) in Kenema district, madam Isha Amie, said they have observed a lot of issues in the voter registration process, and that they will provide their report to the headquarters in Freetown for public consumption.
“I cannot give out any information to journalist regarding our findings. We have a public relation officer in Freetown who should do that,” she said.