Voters’ registration dogged by racketeering, fewer centres
It is three days to the suspension of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), just as efforts by many Nigerians to get the exercise done remain bumpy.
The commission noted that it would suspend the CVR nationwide at exactly 5:00p.m. on August 17 until after 2019 general elections. The commission through its Public Affairs Officer in Gombe State, Mohorret Bigun, explained that the reason for stopping the exercise was to enable INEC produce the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) for distribution ahead of 2019 elections.
Since the first day of August, the INEC enumerators had been working extra hours, even at weekends to capture the mass of citizens that daily throng the registration centres.With the penchant for some people to leave important thing till the last minute, INEC had warned that it would not extend the registration. The electoral body last week though hinted that it would consider extending the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) expected to end on August 17.
While INEC did not reveal the duration the extension would last, the commission however said it might extend voters’ registration if it becomes necessary and exigent to do so.
There have been concern and public outcry over the need to extend the voters’ registration beyond the August 17 deadline given the constitutional requirement that the exercise be held not earlier than 60 days to the elections.Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made this known while playing host to ‘OurMumuDonDo’ group, led by Charles Oputa, also known as Charly Boy; presidential aspirants, Mr. Omoyele Sowore and Prof. Kingsley Monghalu; Deji Adeyanju; Ralph Adebayo among others.
The group, in a letter presented to the INEC chairman and signed by Oputa, observed that since the commission announced that it will suspend the CVR, the movement, other notable groups, individuals and visionary young presidential aspirants who relate with the electorate have been inundated with calls and complaints from frustrated Nigerians across the country who are still unable to register as eligible voters.
The grounds for possible extension raised by the group are genuine. When The Guardian visited some of the registration centers, the exercise was fraught with several hiccups and hassles that slowed down the process.
If INEC is to stand by its words of suspending the exercise on Friday, the general elections would record voting apathy and disenfranchise, as the registration has been riddled with high level of constraints, such as fewer human resources, unavailability of centers, absence of crowd control mechanisms and racketeering activities of INEC personnel.
In Lagos, INEC appears to be concentrating on the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) while disenfranchising citizens in the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). For instance, residents of Oke-Afa, Ejigbo, Jakande Estate, Ajao Estate, Okota and Isolo will have to slug it out at the only centre in the Oshodi-Isolo LGA, which recently moved from Ajao Estate Primary School to Ansar-ur-deen Primary School, Isolo, to be registered.
At exactly 12:30p.m. when our reporter visited the school, the place was filled with aggrieved applicants who have been waiting since 7:00a.m. for their names and allotted numbers to be called.This is after applicants would have to be at the school as early as 5:00a.m. to submit their names for registration and failure to do so would mean they have to carryover their intent of registration till the following day.“This process is tedious and uncalled for, they are not doing us any favour,” said Mrs. Ajoke Ajala (not real name) as she angrily left the school with her son and drove away.
Our correspondent also observed that to save oneself the undue stress and for security consciousness of coming to the school at 5:00a.m., there were other ways to go about it. According to one Mr. Tony, who works at the school, “I can help you to get your PVC without coming here at 5:00a.m. tomorrow,” he said to one Mrs. Williams and our reporter, “but you have to give me N1,000 today. That is the only way you can get it without any stress. After paying me, just come around 10:00a.m. tomorrow, your name would be called.”
Mrs. Williams gladly accepted the offer, adding: “I have no choice than to give him the money because it is my desire to exercise my civic right. Though it should not be this way but I have no choice. We always make things complicated in this country.”Also, Emeka who was at the centre disclosed that even if someone came as early as 5:00a.m. there would still be payment. “If you don’t want them to waste your time, you must pay. Even if you came to register your name early in the morning, you will still pay N500.
“I knew that it was supposed to be free but at this centre, the officials take bribe. And if you prove stubborn your name would be replaced with another person’s. One Mr. Idowu actually attended to me; he helped my friend so I was directed to him after tipping the fixer.”
At Ilupeju, Palmgroove area of Lagos, another applicant narrated his ordeal when he went to register for his PVC. According to him, efforts to get the registration done at his location met a brick-wall. He narrated that there was no permanent center at his area, which is discouraging residents from engaging in the exercise.
“Going back and forth from one center to the other. I went to my local government secretariat at Ilupeju/Odi-olowo but there was no center. I had to go to Mushin. Eventually, I was fortunate to see a registration point at a primary school and was told I came late at 11:00a.m. I had to go back the following day at 6:00a.m.”
Condemning the hassles applicants face, chairman of the Police Equipment Trust Fund (PETF), Chief Kenny Martins, urged the Federal Government not to turn a blind eye to the claim of citizens and urgently do something about it.“People should not pay, it is a common thing really, and many people are talking about this abnormality. People are even tired that they are conceding to it. It is something that the government needs to do something about for those who will not concede. They should not act as if they are blind to it, that is the reality. Many people are already discouraged and this would certainly affect the election. Lots of pressure must be put on INEC to address the situation.
Meanwhile, a public policy analysis and manifesto-rating organisation, Deep Dive Intelligence, claimed that its findings have revealed that INEC is contributing to the mass disenfranchisement and voters’ apathy in the country. The organisation also said its study revealed there is a high, systematic suppression of voters going on in the southern part of the country.
Deep Dive said the findings were based on the fact that nine states with the highest number of abandoned PVC were in the South, with Lagos State being the highest with abandoned PVCs totaling more than 2.2 million.It also noted that inversely, states with a high rate of PVC collection are states with high illiteracy and poverty rate. Deep Dive then wondered if it is valid to say southerners are the most political unconscious people in the country or political elites are using INEC to strategically reduce the numbers of votes coming from the southern part of the country.
The organization, however, proffers reasons, which it said could be responsible for the high rate of abandonment of PVC in the south. For one, it posited that INEC allocation of fewer human resources and equipment to Southwest states resulted in longer queues, which discouraged people and made them non-enthusiastic about registering. The organization also argued that residents of these states engaged in some form of formal/informal jobs making it difficult for them to get permission off work between the official 9:00a.m. to 3:00p.m. to be on the queue for registration.
Deep Dive, however, lamented that in spite of the development, the electoral body has not taken any active measures to correct the problem, thus unintentionally suppressing voters in the affected regions through its inactions.It added that if INEC allowed the situation to continue, voters in the next general elections would be mainly illiterates and Nigerians with high poverty rates. This, it noted, would create room for politicians to easily buy votes and deceive the eligible voters who have PVCs to vote for them.
In solving the problem, the group recommended that PVC collection and CVR registration timetable should be changed to 7:00a.m. to 6:00p.m. daily. In addition, the organization urged INEC to publish weekly statistics on PVC collection & CVR data for election monitoring groups, NGOs, international development organization to monitor the pulse of events ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Meanwhile, Media Adviser and Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, has disclosed that exactly 10,292,647 (ten million, two hundred and ninety-two thousand, six hundred and forty-seven) fresh voters have been captured so far in the ongoing CVR exercise by the commission as at July ending, making a total of over 80 million Nigerians that have been registered for the 2019 general election.
According to him, 588,394 permanent voter cards (PVCs) have been collected, while 510,756 had requested for a PVC transfer. Also, a total of 818,821 requests were received for PVC replacement.“The printing and distribution of PVCs also take time, so we reckon that the commission will require 180 days, between the end of this registration to the time the cards are distributed to the voters and the register is prepared for the 2019 general election.’’
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