By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu to extend the deadline for voter registration to give more time for eligible Nigerians to exercise their right to participation the same way the electoral body has extended the deadline for party primaries.
Against its earlier stance, the INEC last week suddenly extended the deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties by six days, from June 3 to June 9.
Also, the online pre-registration ends by May 30 2022 while the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ends by 30 June 2022.
In the letter dated May 28, 2022 and by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Voters are also critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their own government.”
According to SERAP, “Extending the voter registration deadline would provide more time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people living with disability, as well as those resident in states facing security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections.
“Extending the deadline for voter registration would be entirely consistent with constitutional and international standards, and the Electoral Act. Any such extension would also not impact negatively on the INEC’s election calendar and activities.
“INEC mandates ought to be exercised in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. If voting is as important as the INEC always claims it is, now is the time to show that Nigerian voters will be treated equally and fairly. The future of Nigeria’s democracy depends on it.”
The letter, read in part: “The INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.
“The public perception of the independence and impartiality of INEC is essential for building public confidence in the electoral process, and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.”