As voter registration closes…Nigerians yearn for more
• Massive turnout, last-minute rush as INEC wraps up CVR
• Extension needed to take care of backlog, says PDP
• Commission can’t be extending exercise endlessly, say don, analyst
• Frustrated Rivers Residents Lament slow registration of PVC
• Voter registration should be flexible, routine’
As the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise runs its full course next Sunday, stakeholders have noted that registration of eligible voters should be flexible and routine to mitigate the pressure occasioned by many registrants in the recent experience.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, last Wednesday, declared that it would not entertain further extension of the exercise, stressing that there are other processes involved in delivering the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for those that registered for the 2023 general elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who disclosed this at a news conference, said all CVR activities, except the collection of already printed PVCs, would be suspended on Sunday, July 31.
Bello noted that the extension of the deadline to July 31 and the closing hours to 5:00pm daily, Saturdays and Sundays inclusive, was to ensure that those who suddenly realised the need to register and obtain PVCs at the last hour of the yearlong programme were accommodated.
The FCT REC further disclosed that some of those rushing to register were double registrants, saying the number of invalidated registration is alarming, adding, “a lot of people have registered in one or two registration centres. They will get nothing by doing so, whatever their intentions were, because at the end of the day, they will be declared as people without PVC at all.
“Any double or triple registration is null and void, we will go through our machines after these exercise and clean our register so that we can come up with the list of people who genuinely are going to in 2023.”
But investigation by The Guardian showed that it would be impossible for INEC to register every eligible voter due mainly to the hiccups engendered by the rush by intending voters to get registered.
Reacting to the development, a lecturer at the Baze University, Abuja, Dr. Arthur Martins-Aginam, said INEC should not make voter registration a periodic affair.
He said voter registration, just like birth registration, should be made flexible and continuous so that, as people attain voting age, they can go to the nearest office to get registered.
Martins-Aginam also said technology should be deployed in the process to avoid extensive human contact that gives rise to sharp practices or cumbersome delays.
THE INEC register for the 2019 general elections had 84,004,084 voters. Breakdown of the register showed the North West had the highest number of registered voters at 20,158,100 or 24 per cent of the total registered voters.
The South West came second with 16,292,212 registered voters or 19.39 per cent, while the North Central had 13,366,070 registered voters or 15.91 per cent and the South South registered 12,841,279 or 15.29 per cent of the total.
The North East and the South East regions come last with the total number of 11,289,293 or 13.44 per cent and 10,057,130 voters or 11.97 per cent, respectively.
INEC had extended the initial June 30 deadline for the ongoing exercise by four weeks to end on July 31.
Some states have, at various times, declared work free days to enable workers to obtain the voter’s card.
Also, many churches had variously mandated their congregants to participate in the exercise with some of them barring members without voter’s cards.
According to INEC in its CVR Update Quarter 4, Week 15 as at 7:00am, Monday, July 25, 11,011,119 registered to obtain the voter’s card.
Out of the total, 7,619,179 had completed physical registration while 3,391,940 had done online registration.
Details of the completed registration show that Lagos leads other states with 508,936 registrants followed by Kano, Delta, Rivers, Kaduna and Bayelsa states.
Though Kano with its 14,253,549 people, according to the 2020 Demographic Statistics Bulletin of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is ahead of Lagos, whose population stood at 12,772,884, the state lags behind Lagos with over 8,000 voters, according to the INEC’s data. The completed registration for the state stood at 500,207 by Monday morning.
Delta, which stands third on the INEC chart, registered 481,929 new voters, in spite of its total population standing at 5,307,543, according to the NBS. The state recorded figures higher than many northern states with more population.
Katsina, with 9,300,382 people, according to NBS, recorded only 283,470 completed registration. Niger, whose population was projected at 6,220,617, registered 330,453 while Sokoto, with 5,863,187 people had 293,152 completed registration.
Kaduna, with 8,324,285 lagged behind Rivers, which registered 436,459 voters from its 7,034,973 people, as against Kaduna’s 417,427 new registrants.
Bayelsa, with a population standing at 2,394,725, registered 416,519 voters, way above Plateau (323,960 out of 4,400,974), Sokoto (293,152 out of 5,863,187) and Adamawa (232,525 out of 4,536,948). States with the least number of completed registration were Imo (166,835), Yobe (134,002) and Ekiti (124,844).
The Guardian gathered that Southeast region still lag behind other zones in the exercise. Last week, July 15, precisely, the figures released by INEC indicated that the region had registered a little above 10 million voters. The figure is far behind the Northeast, which, as of that date, had recorded over 11 million voters.
The figures, according to the Commission, included Abia, 1,932,892; Anambra, 2,447,996; Ebonyi, 1,459,933; Enugu 1,944,016 and Imo 2,272,293.
INVESTIGATIONS showed that more people turned up for registration after the initial deadline by the INEC was extended, amid complaints of inadequacy of the registration machines and demand for more machines.
Indeed, inadequate registration machines and several others including, attacks by hoodlums at the registration centres have continued to challenge the exercise in the Southeast.
While some youths have staged protests at INEC offices to call attention to the infractions, incessant attacks by hoodlums had forced the commission to stop the exercise in some areas.
The implication of the development is that the Commission would either reschedule the exercise in those areas or deny the affected people opportunity to participate in the elections.But Country Programme Director of the Global Society for Anti-corruption (GSAC), Mrs Amaka Nweke, whose agency partnered the Commission to ensure smooth registration all through the period, told The Guardian that the exercise witnessed large turnout of people.
She said: “The turnout has been quiet commendable, because the people have realised the need to get their voter cards, though it is coming quite late in view of the INEC deadline.”
She, however, insisted, “considering the deadline not all eligible people would be captured especially the youths who turned 18 within the year and ready to get their cards.”
For her, the Commission should consider “extending the deadline to enable people get their voters card especially in Southeast where the percentage of registered voters is still low.”
A political affairs commentator, Dr. Gerald Eze, believes that the exercise has been helpful, stressing that it has been used to capture “many unregistered voters who should have been disenfranchised.”
Speaking on the exercise in the Southeast region, he disclosed that the additional machines provided by the INEC during the registration and the increased awareness campaign by several groups contributed to the massive turn out of people for the exercise.
Eze, however, observed that the earlier extension, the provision of additional machines and improved manpower notwithstanding, many eligible people in the zone would not be captured.
A student, Ikenna Esomugha, who registered on Thursday at the Michael Okpara square, Enugu, said he doubted if willing voters at the center could be captured before the deadline.
THERE has also been a last-minute rush by Oyo residents, arising from the massive turnout of intending registrants. The exercise has been generally peaceful, hitch-free and encouraging in all the registration centres visited.
Speaking on the exercise, a researcher and public affairs analyst, Mr. Oluwatosin Ologun and Mr. Sunday Paul Ibisola, who is a member of Inter-party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and acting Chairman of Accord party in Oyo State said the turnout was impressive.
Ologun said, “I must commend the INEC for giving the extension to enable Nigerians to participate in the exercise. The residents used the window to massively turn out for the exercise. I visited Ibadan North, Akinyele and Egbeda local governments, it was a massive turnout.’’
Ibisola said, “generally, the turnout is impressive. But it is unfortunate that people are coming out towards the end of the exercise. There are many reasons for this. Many people, who did not do it before, are coming out to register as a result of the extension. They are now serious about the exercise and showing more enthusiasm. I monitored the exercise in Ibadan South East Local Government at a ward; about 60 people came out to register in a day.”
The Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo State, Engr. Akeem Olatunji, while commending the exercise said there are some people yet to participate in the CVR.
Also, a former Public Relations Officer of Inter-party Advisory Committee (IPAC) in Oyo State, Pastor Segun Ogungbayi, said there was backlog of some people who have not registered due to some challenges. He said be that as it may, the exercise must come to an end.
Ogungbayi who is also a public affairs analyst said, “there is a massive turnout across the state. This is due to the enthusiasm people are showing and the last-minute rush which part of our life. Though there are some people who have not registered.’’
Similarly, Prof. Gbade Ojo of the Political Science Department, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, said the commission could not keep extending the exercise in an unending manner.
A LOT of factors could explain the surge of new voters, including innovations devised by the electoral commission and the socio-political consciousness among the otherwise lethargic youth population. That could explain calls for further extension of the registration exercise.
Speaking with The Guardian in one of the registration centres in Oshodi, Publicity Secretary of the Action Alliance Congress (AAC), Ayinde Olawale, lamented the die-minute mentality of many Nigerians, saying this is the reason for upsurge of registrants in the centre.
“Nigerians because of their die minute mentality have been trooping out since this week started. Another challenge that was observed is that is the INEC Internet. Most of the times, it is the residents that provided Hotspot for the INEC officials.”
Also at Ikeja Ward G, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Lagos State Secretary, Duru Festus, stated that oftentimes the INEC computers are slow thereby delaying registrations.
“The number of people yet to get registered is high and I don’t know how INEC will work around it in order not to disenfranchise hundreds of people who are yet to register. If INEC had increased the number of registration centers, maybe more people would have been accommodated. If the 2022 Electoral Act permits that there should be an extension, it would be a welcome development.
“The machines are not enough. For instance, there are only two machines to attend to about 500 people, you can imagine the scenario. Some may not be able to queue for a long time and this might lead to desperate people to induce the officials on duty.”
At Amuwo Odofin, APGA publicity secretary, Ololade Johnson said: “Because the registration will close on Sunday, there are lots of people that are yet to register. The INEC officials are attending to the people the little way they can. The machines are not enough to cover the crowd of registrants at the polling center. But they are doing their best with the little resources they have to do the job. If there are about 10 machines in the local government, it would have been okay.”
At Kosofe, Sheriff Oladejo of NNPP stated that INEC officials are helping, as the responses that we are getting from our members across the state are welcoming. They are cooperating in terms of responding to our request and attending to them at various units. What we may be requesting for is that there is a need for more extension, as there are lots of people who are yet to register. As at 6:00am, the registration center is already filled up. There should be an additional two weeks so that the people are not disenfranchised.
NATIONAL Commissioner in charge of Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states, Chief Ken Okeagu, stated this in Enugu during an assessment tour of INEC voters registration centres in the Continuous Voters’ Registration exercise on Wednesday.
Okeagu, who was on a one-day monitoring visit to Enugu, said his assignment was to appraise the exercise in the state and expressed satisfaction with the turnout of prospective registrants.
While acknowledging the surge at the registration centres, he however, dismissed the possibility of further extension of the exercise.
Though no public holiday was declared in Oyo State for the exercise, the immediate past Resident Electoral Commissioner in Oyo State, Dr. Mutiu Agboke, carried out a lot of sensitisation to encourage the residents to participate in the exercise.
The commission took the campaign to churches, mosques, marketplaces, motor parks and others on the need for Nigerians to fully participate in the electoral process.
The commission said that it had also deployed machines to some areas it described as areas of pressure in order to ensure that more intending voters register for their PVCs.
Mr Samuel Olumekun, INEC National Commissioner for Oyo, Osun and Ekiti, who spoke with journalists at the state headquarters of the commission in Ibadan, on Wednesday, assured the registrants that “whoever is on the queue will get registered before the exercise closes on July 31.
“We have been asking citizens to come out and register for the last one year, this mentality of coming out at the last minutes have to be discouraged.
“For one year, people refused to come out to register and now that the closure for the exercise is drawing nearer, people are trooping out in large numbers.
“But I can assure you that the commission is up to the task. We are fully prepared as we have over 141 machines with which we are working throughout the state.’’
Some civil society organisations, particularly Like Mind4 A New Nigeria, are not impressed by the electoral commission’s attempt to stop registration of voters seven months to the 2023 General Elections.
In a statement by its national coordinator, Benedict Aguele, LikeMinds condemned the July 31 deadline, stressing that it amounts to “an attempt to disenfranchise millions of Nigerians.”
While insisting that it would be premature to end the CVR on July 31, the group contended that terminated the exercise would deny the country from reaping the full benefits of high voting numbers,
The group therefore demanded that INEC reverse its decision and continue with it until November 2022, which will be 90 days before the General Election.
The Guardian gathered that majority of eligible voters from northern states appear lethargic about the exercise as official figures show.
Seeing this passive attitude may likely affect the future of Plateau State, Governor Simon Lalong, declared June 27 and 28, 2022 as public holidays.
A statement signed by the Secretary to the government of the State, Prof. Danladi Abok Atu, said that the decision by the governor was to enable citizens of the state to turnout enmasse for the exercise, which was initially scheduled to end nationwide on Thursday, June 30, 2022 but was later extended to end on July 31, 2022.
Citizens of the state relaxed again which the exercise was extended. But all the same, there is an impressive turnout in all the registration centre’s witnessed by the Guardian.
What community leaders are now doing is to pay stipend, not official, to the registration people to buy fuel to fuel their generators and carry out the exercise in their communities.
Ordinarily, they would not have gone there because they are not designated areas. This method is yielding results.
MEANWHILE, Rivers State residents of have lamented slow pace and frustrations in accessing the Permanent Voter Card (PVC)
The Guardian observations show that there is large turnout of people across the state willing to get the voters card in readiness of the 2023 general elections, but INEC ‘s slow process appear to be hampering the exercise.
Findings by The Guardian in some registration centres across the state revealed that there is drastic shortage of machines and staff at various units to attend to the growing crowd who queue to get their PVCs.
The commission had given the impression of a smooth nature to accessing the cards by extending the registration centres to some churches, markets and even community halls, but despite the move, observations shows that there is no adequate preparation by INEC to meet the daily pressing demands of people for the cards.
The machines, oftentimes, breakdown, the few available staff at the registration centres also get angry at the citizens who mount pressure on them and the situation because chaotic forcing many people to give up on the excise.
A visit to the INEC registration Centre at CFC bus stop along Aba Road shows that over 1,000 residents turnout daily to register for the exercise, but sadly, the centre has only one machine and two staff. The situation shows lack of proper coordination.
Also, at St. Thomas Anglican Church, Rumokoro where another INEC centre is located, there are so much crowd with also only one machine.
Some residents in an interview lamented that they left their place of work for two to three days just to get the card, yet the slow process has made it impossible for them.
Speaking, Victor Okosoha, said, “I am here for my PVC as early as 6:00am, I was here even earlier than some official and now they have not even started. I am the first person for the day and they have not attended to me at past 12:00 pm.
“INEC should bring more hands and machine so that it should be fast. Since morning we are here they are still attending to people that came yesterday.
Also, Ojo Divine, “I am not satisfied because there is no coordination. We have been here since past 6 am till now, we do not what is even going on. We are waiting for the INEC team and they told us that they would be here by 8 am and 12 pm they are not here. 12 pm they are not here and it is very bad.
“It the registration is ending on Sunday, half of the population have not done the PVC and just few days, they should extend it because they can not meet up with the target of what they have and they should make it more organised, like they should know what they are handling at a time”.
Belema Ibiwari: “I am here to revalidate my PVC. There is a need to extend the time because there are a lot of people that want to register. You know previously they never knew that their votes would count but now that they have been assured that their votes would count I think they should extend the time so people would register”.
The State Public Relations Officer of INEC, Geraldine Ekelemu, failed to respond to several calls put to her phone but the Commission had this week decried low turnout in the collection of the PVCs, by residents of the state.
The Commission also stated that it is working hard in its preparations for the 2023 General election, adding that it desires that no citizen is disenfranchised and that every vote will count.
The Supervising National Commissioner of INEC, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, spoke at the INEC Head office in Port Harcourt, Monday, according to a statement released by the state’s Public Affairs Officer of the Commission in the state, Geraldine Ekelemu.
Agbamuche-Mbu said because of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) that INEC in Rivers State received a total of 95 INEC Voter Enrolment Devices (IVED) which were deployed to the 24 Registration Centres in the Local Government Areas and the Head Office.
She noted that INEC’s Registration Officers and other staff at the LGA offices have been working assiduously throughout the registration exercise to ensure that voters were registered, but regretted that a larger number of the PVS were yet to be collected by the registered voters.