In this report, MUYIWA OYINLOLA examines the preparation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) amidst growing concern for a credible election next year
One important aspect of any election is to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised, hence the essence of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.
The exercise that began across the country on April 27, 2017 is to afford young adults who have now turned 18 years old and those not captured during the last voter registration exercise, due to one reason or the other, the opportunity to register and participate in the next voting exercise.
The exercise is expected to stop temporarily some 60 days to the commencement of the 2019 general elections, but resume afterwards.
Already, the national electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed 12 February, 2019 as date for commencement of the 2019 general elections.
According to a statement recently signed by the commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Solomon Soyebi, so far over four million Nigerians have been registered across the country.
“The nationwide CVR is to afford all eligible Nigerians, 18 years and above, who did not register in the previous exercise, an opportunity to do so. So far, over four million have registered across the country.
“The commission wishes to assure all eligible Nigerians that the CVR exercise is designed to continue indefinitely as envisaged by the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“However, as provided for in Section 9 (5) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the CVR will be temporarily suspended 60 days to the commencement of the next General Elections scheduled for February 2019.
“The exercise will resume after the conclusion of the elections.
”The Commission encourages all eligible Nigerians to register at our offices in all local government headquarters and other officially designated areas across the country between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays,” he said.
Soyebi said that full information about the exercise could be obtained at INEC state offices.
Given its importance in the conduct of a free and fair election, the issue of CVR was also on the front burner during a recent interface with the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja.
The occasion was a colloquium organised by the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), which provided an opportunity of interaction between civil society groups and the INEC Chairman.
The colloquium featured the unveiling of the Report, ‘INEC: BEYOND 2015- Overview, Challenges and Prospects’.
Yakubu while commending the Executive Director of ISDMG, Dr. Chima Amadi, for coming up with the initiative welcomed the engagement and said INEC cannot deliver without the active participation of citizens. He assured that INEC was determined to deliver free, fair and credible elections in 2019 and that any INEC staff who compromises would be dealt with according to the law.
The INEC boss disclosed that in compliance with the requirements of the law, the commission had been conducting continuous voter registration (CVR), noting that the commission has been taking CVR very seriously, realising that CVR should not be tied to elections.
According to him, the exercise enables young men who have attained 18 years to register, stressing that the commission has been decentralizing the voting points to ease the problems encountered by citizens who go out to register. Moreover, he said additional registration centres have been opened beyond the LGAs. “With the efforts so far, we will no longer be talking about CVR in 2023”, he said, even as he solicited the support of the media and civil society in sensitizing and mobilizing citizens for the CVR exercise.
He further assured that the total number of registered citizens will be on the INEC website in the coming days and assured that 2019 election will be better than the 2015 election. “For me, INEC work is a calling not a job and I cannot afford to fail Nigerians”, he added.
While speaking further, he stated that the commission places more emphasis on citizens collecting their PVCs rather than on distribution. This, according to him is because INEC is minded to ensure that these PVCs don’t get into the wrong hands. He also explained that most of those whose PVCs are yet to be collected are mainly students of tertiary institutions who have graduated and left before their cards were ready, civil servants on transfer and those who have died.
He said INEC is working with Telecoms companies to get them to assist through sending bulk sms inviting citizens to go and collect their PVCs. He also said INEC has a portal where citizens can cheek the status of their registration.
He added INEC will continue to make efforts to enhance the credibility of elections by ensuring that results are transmitted to the collation centres electronically to reduce the chances of manipulation of election results between the polling units and the collation centres as has been the case.
In the same vein, the INEC Chairman informed that the commission has virtually concluded the process involving planning for the election, and strategic plan and program of action, with two more outstanding elections in Taraba and Bauchi.
He said INEC has conducted over 178 elections with minimum litigation which is an indication of increased citizens’ confidence in the electoral process.
He also noted that the commission has stabilized the election calendar and made it more predictable. “We are moving from uncertainty to certainty; and this makes it possible for people, the media, civil society, political parties and citizens,to plan”, he said.
While speaking on the issue of security during elections, Yakubu said the commission had always received assurances from heads of security agencies at the interagency election security committee meetings that all was well. However, he said sudden changes from security agencies often affect INEC’s own preparations.
Participants, considering the commitment of the INEC leadership to continuously improve on the electoral process and his consistency in following the electoral law, passed a vote of confidence on the INEC chairman and urged other stakeholders, especially, politicians and security agencies to be alive to their own obligations with regard to election security and integrity.
Participants also recommended that INEC engages with the Media and CSOs as pivotal instruments of voter mobilization; and the commission should engage all stakeholders in the Continuous Voters Registration Process. They also recommend that Nigerians should be encouraged to own the election process, and that the Electoral Register be cleaned out to reflect the transparent framework of election management in the country.
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