...Insists ‘we can no longer extend voters registration’
…Says over 7m online voter applicants failed to complete process at physical centres
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Omeiza Ajayi & Miftaudeen Raji
THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, turned down the request of 70 Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, to restart and extend the suspended Continuous Voters Registration, CVR, exercise, by two months.
The electoral umpire, which ended the exercise on Sunday, after extending it from June 30 to July 31, said it could no longer entertain further extension to avoid harming preparations for the 2023 general polls.
Meanwhile, the commission disclosed, yesterday, that over seven million Nigerians, who did their voter pre-registration online did not complete the process at physical centres.
Consequently, a coalition of over 70 CSOs, requested for an extension of the exercise for another two months.
The INEC had in June 2021, begun the CVR exercise and launched a portal, where Nigerians could register by filing in their biodata and required documents, after which they would visit INEC designated centres to complete the process physically. Going to a physical centre for biometric capturing was a prerequisite to complete the voter registration process.
According to data released by the commission, 10,487,972 Nigerians carried out their pre-registration online. Of this number, only 3,444,378 Nigerians, representing 32.8 per cent, completed the process at a physical centres.
This means 7,043,594 persons, representing over 67 per cent of those who began their registration process online, are not eligible to receive a Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC, before the 2023 general elections and will, therefore, not be eligible to vote.
Although, the INEC said 12,298,944 Nigerians completed their voter registration, it added that 8,854,566 of the number were individuals who did their registration entirely at a physical centres.
INEC had fixed June 30 as the deadline for the CVR ahead of the 2023 elections, but extended it till July 31 after a Federal High Court in Abuja stopped it from ending the exercise, and following several pleas by Nigerians and CSOs.
However, a coalition of over 70 CSOs, again, yesterday requested for an extension of the voters registration exercise for another two months to avoid disenfranchising the people next year.
The coalition, which is under the aegis of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said the exercise should be extended to accommodate more prospective voters, insisting that “there is still a window for extension in accordance with the Electoral Act, 2022.”
The Situation Room said it received reports of a tedious registration process in the just concluded CVR exercise, despite INEC’s assurances of a seamless process.
“Situation Room further notes that the CVR which ended on 31st July 2022 will leave many willing Nigerians disenfranchised from the 2023 polls even when the Commission can stretch itself a bit more to continue registering voters,” the CSOs said.
In a statement issued in Abuja, yesterday, the CSOs, further asked the Federal Government to activate steps to address the current economic challenges, alarming unemployment, plummeting exchange rate and financial hardship on the citizens.
It maintained that FG must desist from increasing or introducing new taxes, especially the proposed five per cent inclusive of excise duty on telecommunications services in Nigeria that will raise the tax to12.5 per cent.
While expressing its disappointment over the state of the nation the Situation Room said there was need for President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rejig the entire security architecture of the country.
“The state of insecurity in the country has deteriorated so much that most parts of the country are now being threatened by non-state armed men with various nomenclature like Bandits, Boko Haram, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), Kidnappers and Unknown Gunmen.
“According to reports, ISWAP and Boko Haram insurgents having occupied some territories in the North East of the country are now encroaching into Abuja and the rest of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Bandits continuous raid on villages fuelled with kidnapping of helpless villagers in the North West States of Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi, have continued unchallenged.
“The abduction of road users on the Abuja – Kaduna highway has been a major concern, bearing in mind that some of the March 2022 passengers of the Abuja – Kaduna bound train are still in captivity.
“Recently, Kuje Medium Security Correctional Facility in Abuja was raided by the insurgents leading to the release of high-profile terrorists from the prison without strong resistance from security personnel, despite 45 security reports and warnings of the imminent attack,”they said.
We can no longer extend CVR deadline, INEC insists
Decline requests to extend voters registration, the INEC said that the electoral timetable cannot entertain any further stretching.
“The Commission will not extend the CVR deadline because of the various activities it needs to carry out before the 2023 General Election”, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi told Vanguard, on Tuesday.
Specifically, he said the Commission is required to “clean-up the voter register to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System ABIS.”
Oyekanmi, however, added that “the CVR will resume after the 2023 General Election and all those who could not register this time will have the opportunity to do so”.
He listed other schedule of activities that INEC would have to undertake before the election, which makes any deadline extension not feasible.
Some of the activities he listed include: “Consolidate the national register of voters (existing voters and new registrants) and display same on Polling Unit basis for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) across the 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for public scrutiny. This lasts for a period of one week. If, for instance, we eventually harvest an estimated 95 million voters, on the basis of 10 voters per page, the Commission has to print 9,500,000 pages for the display;
“Print millions of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs;
“Ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 General Election;
“Print the final register of voters in triplicate for the 2023 General Election involving a projected 28,500,000 pages for accreditation and display at 176,846 polling units for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on 25th February 2023 and State elections (Governorship and State Assembly) on 11th March 2023; and
“Make copies of the updated national register of voters available to political parties not later than 30 days to the date fixed for the General Election”.
A coalition of Civil Society Organizations CSOs under the aegis of “Situation Room” had on Tuesday asked the commission to consider extending the CVR deadline to allow more Nigerians register to vote.
Statistics released by the commission at the end of the CVR showed that over seven million Nigerians either failed to complete their online registration processes or to appear at registration centres for their biometrics.
Although the CVR started since June 2021, many eligible Nigerians refused to take advantage of the exercise until it was nearing its earlier advertised June 30 deadline.
Based on several considerations including a judicial action, the electoral umpire had to grant a two-week extension and just before that deadline, extended the exercise again by another two weeks which lapsed on July 31.
However, nearly half of those who registered between June and December 2021 were double registrants whose second registration has already been struck out.