To make room for eligible persons presently not on the biometric Register of Voters ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commences Continuous Voter Registration on 28 June, 2021.
Although the nation’s electoral body noted that all eligible Nigerians would not be denied the right to vote, it said it will prosecute any citizen who provided false information during the CVR. INEC’s director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Chidi Nwafor, said offenders would be prosecuted under the nation’s Cybercrime Act 2015. Nwafor said the issues of multiple and underage registrations would no longer be possible with the introduction of new technology by the commission.
To be an eligible voter or register for CVR as enshrined in the Electoral Act as amended, you must be a Nigerian who is 18 years old when the last exercise was held in 2018. The CVR is also for those who never registered but are over the constitutionally allowed age limit. This means that anyone over the age of 18 who has never registered before is eligible for this CVR.
The commission noted that the exercise will be conducted continuously for at least a year and will last until the third quarter of 2022; both online and at the commission’s provided centers.
As the CVR enters its seventh week 195,591 citizens have completed their physical registration, with Anambra State leading with 15,110 completed registration. The electoral body also said that it has received 1,609,981 fresh online registrants.
INEC national commissioner and chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who disclosed this said young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 34 are still leading in both online registrations with 1,289,050 registered voters.
Okoye noted that the online pre-registration of voters has now entered its seventh week.
“As at 7 am today Monday 9th August 2021, the number of online fresh registrants is now 1,609,981 while 195,591 citizens have completed their physical registration. 22,941 persons living with disabilities have also registered,” he said.
It would be recalled that INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu said at least 5,346 INEC officers will be deployed to 2,673 centers across the country for this exercise. He also stated that no eligible Nigerian would be denied the right to vote.
To ensure a seamless exercise, the commission recently launched a dedicated portal for online registration for the exercise. This is in contrast to previous years; when prospective voters had to queue in various locations to register and obtain voter registration cards. However, INEC stated that it plans to add at least 20 million new voters to its existing voter base.
This according to the commission will allow Nigerians to begin the registration process online; by filling out the forms and other documents; then scheduling an appointment on the web portal for a date and time to visit an INEC State or Local Government Area (LGA) office; to provide their fingerprints and complete the registration.
Also, in place of the previous laptop-based Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM); the 2021 CVR exercise will use a new registration machine known as the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED). However, the INEC chairman said that the device could also be used for other purposes; such as voter registration during elections; as well as registered voters who have had issues with their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC); or fingerprints during accreditation for any previous election which is more portable and user-friendly than the previous device.
To satisfy the fears of those who are not digitally inclined, physically disabled; or people living in rural areas without access to the internet, the commission has established 2,673 centers where citizens can register manually.
Additionally, those who are already registered as voters can carry out all other activities online, such as transferring voting locations from one location to another, correcting personal information, and replacing damaged or defaced Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).
The most recent exercise took place in 2018, just before the 2019 General Elections. At the conclusion of that process, Mr Yakubu confirmed in January 2019 that 84,004,084 Nigerians had been officially registered for the 2019 General Elections.
Originally scheduled for the first quarter of 2020, the CVR exercise was cancelled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, if INEC achieves its projected 20 million new voters in addition to the existing 84 million voters in 2019, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, will have a voting population of at least 124 million for the 2023 general elections.
Speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP Weekend the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Hameed urged eligible electorate in the north to come out en masse to get registered.
advised the region to take advantage of the ongoing CVR to register in order to vote for leaders with proven integrity and unquestionable characters during elections.
Baba-Hameed said that the importance of the voter card could not be over-emphasised in the socio-economic development of the country.
He averred that registration and collection of the voter cards is the only qualification to vote in the elections.
According to him, “Registration and collection of the voter cards is the only qualification to vote in the elections; any eligible voter without his or her voter card will have no business at the polling booths during election.
‘’Voter’s card is the only weapon the electorate could use to choose leaders of their choices. As the nation’s general election draws closer, I appeal to Nigerians who are eligible to vote to register and get their voter cards in order to vote God-fearing leaders and of proven integrity in the interest of national development.’’
He also called on the electorate to actualise their dreams for good governance by voting leaders of proven integrity.
He added that Nigerians must shun violence at all times but embrace peace and tolerate one another irrespective of our backgrounds in the interest of national development.
Also, while major states in Nigeria are still struggling to get 100, 000 to register online for their CVR, 319,520 voters have registered for their CVR in Osun State. Amidst the growing number, a demand has been put to the INEC to immediately conduct a forensic audit on the generated and appropriated figures of the ongoing CVR in order to reveal the true position of things.
The Forum of Progressive Political Parties (FPPP) led by Idowu Omidiji, the Osun State chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) who made the demand urgent action to check the geometrical and skyrocketing figures emanating from the website of INEC on a weekly basis of the ongoing CVR in Osun state.
According to Omidiji ‘’The forum had observed with serious concern over the skyrocketing increase in the number of registered voters. The INEC must urgently conduct a forensic audit on this trend.’’
He noted that these had made it imperative to update and brief the media and call the attention of the INEC chairman Prof Yakubu and his entire management to the scenario playing out in Osun state which is just one out of the 36 states in Nigeria.
Also speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP, the executive director, Citizen Advocacy for Social and Economic Right (CASER), Barr Frank Tietie, noted that it is a statutory responsibility of INEC to conduct CVR, however, barring security concerns.
Tietie said anybody who tells you that your votes do not count is wrong, adding that it is another game of distraction and denial of civic rights.
‘’If your vote doesn’t count, why is the menace of vote-buying taking a centre stage in the nation’s electoral discussion,’’ he said.
He said CVR also comes as a way of assuring those persons that think there will not be an election in 2023 amidst attack in INEC offices and the wave of secessionist elements sending bad signals.
He also called for more awareness for the citizens to ensure that they register online for the ongoing continuous voters’ registration and complete their registration.
‘’We want a situation where all elections will be inclusive and participatory and if we really want our votes to count without being either counted for or against the political decision taken, there is a need to begin to create more awareness for the citizens to ensure that they register as a voter.
‘’Our political decisions determine our economic position and that political decision can only be driven when you have the ticket to vote. All eligible voters in Nigeria should see a reason to register. You deserve a voter’s card.
‘’Over the years, I have canvassed for that everyone should go out and vote, not playing football on election day. The lackadaisical and lukewarm attitude of some citizens as it regards the registration process will not and does not provide the explanation when the wrong people are voted into power.’’
He added that when citizens do not come out to vote, the politicians have the opportunity to rig elections so that the need for political apathy is not accommodated.