Home Politics 2023: No more voter registration, INEC insists; prospective voters groan

2023: No more voter registration, INEC insists; prospective voters groan

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reiterated that the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), which ended on Sunday, will be the last before the 2023 general elections scheduled to hold in February and March.

The federal elections (presidential and National Assembly) will hold on 23 February, while those for the states (governorship and House of Assembly) take place 11 March.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi told The PUNCH that this is because there is a lot the required in the process.

“The commission is pleased to see the renewed citizens’ interest in the Continuous Voter Registration exercise. Unfortunately, the CVR would have to be suspended today (31 July) because there is a lot that the commission is required to do under the electoral legal framework, in relation to voter registration and the process of compiling the register requires ample time to accomplish”, Oyekanmi said.

He added that INEC would need to clean-up the voter register in order to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System.

Oyekanmi said that the electoral body would also need to consolidate the national register of existing voters and new registrants and display the same on polling unit basis for each of the 8,809 wards across the 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for public scrutiny.

“The commission needs to print millions of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs; and ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 general elections,” he stated.

INEC began the nationwide registration  in June 2021 to enable Nigerians who had just attained the voting age and others to register and participate during the 2023 election cycle.

The electoral body planned to terminate the CVR last 30 June,  but a civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project filed a suit on 5 June at the Federal High Court seeking an extension of the exercise beyond that date. Fifteen days later, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon granted an order of interim injunction stopping INEC from halting the registration exercise.

In compliance with the order, the electoral body extended the exercise till last Sunday. Despite the extension, however, hundreds of applicants have continued to besiege registration centres nationwide in a bid to register before the deadline.

Many Nigerians, who could not register during the exercise, have expressed frustration over INEC’s refusal to extend the exercise, describing the action as a way to disenfranchise them.

The PUNCH reports that in Niger State, hundreds of people milled around INEC registration centre near the Eastern Bypass, Minna, waiting to be attended to by officials. Some of them complained that they had been at the centre since 5 am.

One of them, Ibrahim Musa said: “Some of us have been here since 5 am and they (officials) have been keeping us since then. They said they are working with numbers but we wrote our names on a list and no one is using the list. They said they will no longer go by the list but people with cars are coming and driving in and getting registered while we are left here outside the gate”.

At 5:07 pm on Sunday, over a hundred persons were seen at  the state INEC headquarters on David Mark Road, waiting to be registered. But INEC staff were said to have told them that the exercise had ended the exercise.

In Kano, over 100 prospective applicants were seen struggling to register at the INEC sub-centre located behind Nomansland Police Station. Narrating his ordeal, Kevin Nnadi said he and others had been at the centre for over 15 hours.

“What I observed here is that it depends on who you know and sorting (bribing) somebody. I’ve been here for 15 hours, while some others have been here for three days”. On how the INEC officials treated them, he said: ‘’They intermittently come out outside the gate where we  have been waiting all day long and call one or two names. Also, from nowhere, they will call names and somebody would just be admitted into the premises while ignoring others who have been waiting for hours”.

Over 200 individuals could not be registered at the Okpara Square centre in Enugu on Sunday. They appealed for extension of the exercise. Emeka Okongwu said:  “I have been coming to register for four times but could not register because of the crowd. I don’t know why INEC did not provide machines for the exercise, especially here in the South East. If I don’t register by the end of today and the exercise is not extended, I may go to court to seek redress.”

In Plateau State, scores of Nigerians complained about their frustration with the exercise. A resident, Hannah Gyang, who was in the queue, said she would not return home unless she  completed her registration. As at 6:10 pm on Sunday, INEC officials attended to prospective voters at its state headquarters along Miango Road, Jos. Officials attributed the long queue to applicants who only turned up when the exercise was about to wind down.

The Head of Communication Unit of INEC in the state, Cornelius John assured the people that the officials would attend to everyone before the exercise eventually closed.

For the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, INEC should ensure that as many Nigerians as possible register ahead of the 2023 polls. He said that, although there was a need to allow INEC to prepare fully for the elections, that could still be done in such a way that a large number of Nigerians would not be denied the right to vote.

“We believe that people should be able to register, but we don’t want a situation where people will register and cannot vote. Obviously, there must be a timeline. So, inasmuch as we want everyone to be able to register, we support INEC to do what will make it more effective. We are not in INEC, but we encourage INEC to open the doors for as many people as possible. That is our demand. Every Nigerian that is qualified to vote should be afforded the opportunity”, he further said.

Also, the Zonal Publicity Secretary (North West) of the All Progressives Congress, Musa Mada called for a month extension of the registration exercise.

Mada said: “INEC has shortchanged Nigerians through this unfair process. I released a statement in Kaduna two days ago, where I asked INEC to extend the deadline. The reason INEC gave that they need time to produce the PVCs is not tenable enough. They still have time for that process. After all, the campaign has not even started.

“As I said earlier, INEC shortchanged Nigerians through this voter registration deadline. There are very few registration centres across the country. If you want to give this type of deadline, you need to open up more centres for people to access easily”.’

But the Director of Media and Communications of Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Mr Bayo Onanuga applauded the commission for sticking to the deadline. He said that INEC had a calendar that it is working with and had given adequate time after series of extension deadlines.

The New Nigeria Peoples Party spokesman, Agbo Major called for an extension of the CVR.

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