With just six days to the end of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), Nigerians are in a last-minute rush to ensure that they are registered to participate in the 2019 general elections.

LEADERSHIP Weekend observed residents of Benue State hurrying to register in the CVR following the two-week extension of the deadline by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

INEC had set August 17 as deadline for the CVR to end but had to postpone it to August 31 in order to accommodate the large number of intending voters who had yet to register to obtain their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs), without which they cannot vote in the coming 2019 general elections.

The Continuous Voter Registration is meant for young Nigerians who attained voting age after the 2015 elections and others who for one reason or the other had not got on the voter register.

In Benue State, however, residents have complained at the delay in the registration process, which they attributed to a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise them.

Our correspondent who went round the registration centres in the Benue State capital, Makurdi, observed that many residents had been trooping out in large numbers to register; however, they have expressed frustration and dissatisfaction at the number of hours wasted on queues before they are attended to.

Some students, Agaba Oche and Geoffrey Anyam, who came for registration, said they had spent several hours on the queue unattended to and called on the commission to deploy more personnel and machines to ease some of the challenges arising from the extension of registration deadline.

It was observed that while the registration process for the PVCs was ongoing, some persons were also making efforts to collect their temporary voters’ card amid difficulty, with many of the cards strewn all over the floor.

A youth corps member, Mary Eno, said they were going through a difficult time searching for their temporary cards on the floor adding, “it is hectic and could discourage a lot of people from coming for the cards.”

They called on the commission to ensure a more organised way of giving out the cards to their owners to prevent damage to the cards.

The director, Voter Education and Publicity of INEC in Makurdi, Emmanuel Okpe, in a chat with journalists said following the two- week extension of voter registration exercise in the country ahead of the 2019 general elections, INEC had deployed more workers in the field to attend to more people in Benue.

According to Okpe, the commission has also deployed more corps members to complement INEC staff in the local governments in order to reduce the challenges faced by staff due to the surge.

He disclosed that since the beginning of the new voter registration exercise, about 486, 000 had registered from April 2017 to date in the state.

According to him, before the commencement of the new registration, INEC had about 279,935 PVCs from 2015 and 2017 registration.

“Out of this number, 34,849 cards have been collected so far, leaving 245,086 uncollected PVCs by August, 2018,” he said.

Okpe advised those who had yet to collect their temporary voter’s card to endeavour to come forward and collect.

“It is important for the new registrants to have this temporary one so that when the registration is over, they can get their permanent voter’s card on time.

“We have also embarked an awareness campaign to educate market women on the need to register so that no one would be left out,” he said.

In Rivers State, a visit to the INEC office in Port Harcourt City local government area showed a lot of people waiting to register while others were there to collect their PVCs.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, a resident of Borokiri, Port Harcourt, Loveday Clifford, said he decided to participate in the registration exercise because he believed it was the right thing to do.

Another resident of the area, Johnson Firi, said his recent transfer to Rivers State made him seek another voter’s card.

…Many Eligible Voters May Not Register In North West

Meanwhile, LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation reveals that a good number of eligible voters on the north-western zone of the country might not be able to meet the August 31 deadline given by INEC for the stoppage of continuous voter registration.

Sokoto

Despite the extension of the ongoing voter registration exercise by two weeks, many Sokoto State residents are afraid they are going to be disenfranchised for no fault of theirs.

Some of the eligible voters decried what they termed ‘skewed’ registration process, claiming that certain areas are favoured in terms of registration points than others.

They called for their areas to equally have registration points because of their population.

One of such complainants is Mr Magnus Okeke, who said his area suffers not only deprivation in terms of INEC registration points, but virtually every aspect of infrastructural development.

“The old airport areas of the metropolis have more than 200,000 people but continue to suffer neglect in everything, including INEC registration centre. We have to go as far as town to queue for days. But the most annoying part of it is that you will end up being frustrated because after all efforts, getting you registered is like climbing a staircase to heaven,” he said.

Reacting to the claim, an INEC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, asked the electorate to be fair in rating the commission’s performance on the CVR exercise.

According to him, much as many are blaming INEC for not having registration centres in their areas, those that had already registered are yet to collect their permanent voter cards.

The INEC source said the commission would appreciate it if the federal government would bring up another option that would ensure the capturing of all eligible voters.

Kaduna

The insufficient number of designated centres across Kaduna State is impeding the speedy registration of voters in the ongoing CVR as the extended deadline approaches.

LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that the available voter registration centres have been attracting long queues in most of places visited, with many frustrated eligible voters skipping the civic exercise as a result of the tedious process.

One of the eligible voters, Gabriel Yok, who spent two days at Sabo Government School without registration due to the turnout of thousands of residents, told our correspondent that he might not vote in 2019.

“I went there for two days and no registration. How can the entire Sabon Tashan of over one million people be allocated one polling unit to do registration; it doesn’t make sense at all.

“Before now, INEC said everybody should go to the local government headquarters for the voter registration, but how is that possible; that means only those who are close to local government headquarters can participate in the exercise.

“My hope of voting in 2019 may be defeated as I was not able to do the registration under a frustrating and stressful condition,” he lamented.

Another eligible voter, Mrs Agnes Kayode, who said she was able to register after a hectic struggle, called on INEC to create additional centres.

She said, “It was hot for me to do the registration because I really want to vote in 2019 for candidates of my choice. INEC should as a matter of urgency create more registration centres to reduce the suffering of the people.”

A senior INEC officer who sought anonymity revealed that the ongoing CVR had been affected by inadequate office accommodation and working materials to deal with the large turnout of eligible voters on daily basis.

Kebbi

The situation is not different in Kebbi as residents are rushing to beat the new deadline for the continuous voter registration exercise.

A visit to some registration centres confirmed that eligible voters were thronging registration points.

At the Birnin Kebbi local government area office, long queues of eligible voters were seen patiently waiting for their turn to be registered. In Kalgo and Bunza local government area offices of INEC , the story of long queues was the same, just as reports coming from other local government areas of the state also indicated a large turnout of eligible voters.

LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that in most of these registration centres, the number of those in the queues had tripled.

In Birnin Kebbi local council, one Abubakar Usman Dan Tsoho said even though he commended INEC for the extension of the deadline, he, however, expressed displeasure at the slow nature of the process.

‘’Well, it is good that they extended the time for registration, however I do not know why it takes time for one to remain in queue before he is called. I think they need to speed up the process if the purpose of extension is to really benefit the electorate,” he said.

At Kalgo local government area, the officials said they were working hard to register as many people as possible.

One resident of the area, Suwaiba Jabir, who was waiting for her turn, told our correspondent it had been very difficult for her to get registered because of the large turnout of people, lamenting that the process was slow.

“You can see I have been standing in the queue for hours. The process is not fast and people are turning up in their large numbers,” she said.

In a recent briefing with reporters in his office, the newly posted Resident Electoral Commissioner posted to Kebbi State, Ahmad Bello Mahmud, called on eligible voters to use all INEC designated registration centres in all the 21 local government area offices.

He added that there were still over 37,000 uncollected PVCs from the 2014 voter registration exercise.

Lagos, Rivers, Enugu, Abia Have Highest New Registrants

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, statistics have shown that more Nigerian men are now rushing to collect their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) than their female counterparts, LEADERSHIP Weekend can report.

In previous exercises, it was gathered that women were ahead of their male counterparts in seeking the voting tool.

However, the new registration exercise shows that states like Lagos, Rivers, Enugu and Abia have the highest number of new registrants.

In the ongoing CVR, Lagos has recorded 685,503 new registrants; Rivers, 665,560; Abia, 536,039, and Enugu, 501,508.

The four states have the highest number of newly registered voters.

Meanwhile, a document obtained by LEADERSHIP Weekend from INEC’s voter registry showed that more men registered in the CVR exercise than their female counterparts.

The CVR exercise, which commenced on April 27, 2017, has seen a 19.6 percent increase in the number of registered voters since the last general election.

It was gathered that by August 20, 2018, a total of 13,013,989 people had been registered in the CVR exercise with about 847, 693 PVCs collected.

A total of 641,274 people sought the transfer of their PVCs while about 999,656 people wanted the replacement of their PVCs.

On gender analysis, LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that about 7,173,683 males registered and are now rushing for the collection of their PVCs, compared to about 5,840,306 females. The analysis within this period placed men higher in PVCs registration and collection.

The statistics also showed that more people are now seeking to obtain their PVCs than the previous years.

In 2016, a total of about 496,421 PVCs were collected, while in 2017 about 230,175 PVCs were collected. In 2018, a total of about 1,278, 836 PVCs have been collected, with the registration extended to August 31, 2018.

“By the end of the CVR exercise which ends this month, we will release the entire number of the registered voters and the number of PVCs collected so far,” INEC chairman’s press secretary, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi said.

According to him, people registering now will get their PVCs by December 2018.

APC Slams INEC Over Leaked Primaries Timetable

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday berated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for allegedly divulging what it termed sensitive and confidential correspondence from the party to the public.

Noting that the practice leaking sensitive information was becoming a commonplace in the country, the APC charged the nation’s electoral umpire to look internally towards plugging all loopholes.

The governing party had on Thursday refuted a media report that it had released its timetable for State/National Assembly, Governorship and Presidential primaries.

The party said the timetable circulating in the social media for the primaries for State House of Assembly, National Assembly, Governorship and Presidential positions is fake.

In a statement signed by its acting national publicity secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, APC said the leaked formal notification to INEC was done by the party pursuant to the provisions of Section 85 of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended).

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP Weekend noted: “Our attention has been drawn to a leaked letter the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole wrote to the chairman, Independent National Electoral Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu informing the Commission of the schedule of the Congresses and Primaries to elect Party candidates for the 2019 General Elections.

“These leaks of our sensitive and confidential correspondence to INEC is becoming commonplace and totally unacceptable. We strongly request that INEC looks into its internal handling of official correspondence and put a stop to these leaks.

“While the leaked formal notification to INEC has been done by the APC pursuant to the provisions of Section 85 of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended), we advise the general public particularly the media to wait for an official announcement from the Party as the leaked dates are subject to changes, if necessary.”