As the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise ends today, Nigerians across the country have lamented their inability to register due to inadequate data capturing machines and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others.
INEC had fixed July 31 for the suspension of the nationwide CVR exercise ahead of the 2023 general elections.
National commissioner and chairman of the commission’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who announced the deadline after an extraordinary meeting of the commission, said the decision was to allow the commission to perform the legal requirements it has to undertake before the general elections.
This was after a Federal High Court had on July 13, 2022 dismissed the suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) seeking an extension of the exercise.
But ahead of the expiration of the deadline today, some Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction with the exercise, insisting on extension of the deadline on grounds that the
From the nation’s capital, as a result of the difficulties, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) and traditional rulers called for an extension of the exercise.
The senior special assistant on community relations to the minister of FCT, Yamawo Tanko made the appeal when he visited the palaces of Ona of Abaji Yunusa Baba and the Se’peyi of Garki, Usman Nga-Kupi, to assess the level of registration.
Yamawo said the FCT Administration was concerned about the and would always evolve measures that would ease registration.
He noted that the exercise was slow in the territory because of few data capturing machines in circulation, adding that the registration should be extended by two weeks, as without voter cards, Abuja residents would not choose people of their choice to represent them.
“We are visiting palace to palace to sensitise them on the issue of voter registration, the registration is in progress, likely, it will be closed tomorrow. We want the traditional rulers to mobilise their people to come out en masse to register.
“The machines are not enough, even the available ones are slow. If you go to the registration centre people are stranded with no machines to capture them. Therefore, we are calling on INEC to extend the registration, is not as if people are not coming out but the machines are not enough, so it is difficult to capture the number of voters that come out.
“How can one person spend four, five to six days to register for PVC? Yet the person is not registered. We are calling on the INEC to extend the registration so that everybody that is within the voting age will be registered.
“Allowing people to register will help them elect a person of their choice during elections. Without voter card, nobody will elect a good leader” Yamawo said.
Responding, the Se’peyi of Garki Usman Nga-Kupi, urged the FCT administration to liaise with INEC to extend the registration exercise for people to participate.
“July 31 is too close, it should be extended, if the registration closes tomorrow or Sunday that means the result is not achieved. Most of our people live in rural areas and the means of communication is very poor, you can’t reach them immediately”
On issues to be corrected, Nga-Kupi said: “The machines brought to us are not enough, some come from villages everyday but can’t be registered because of the challenges, it takes up to five and six days before they can be registered. Therefore, INEC should extend the PVC’s registration” he said.
In Niger State, those interviewed said INEC should have employ more hands for the exercise.
A resident of Minna, Abdullahi Gambo, said the commission was short of manpower, adding that a situation whereby one person attends to more than 1000 people slowed down the system.
Mary Joseph also said the long queues were a result of shortage of manpower.
Jamilu Bello also noted that the few registration officers available at the registration centres contributed to lack of interest by some people.
“Most people are not ready to stay in long queues or spend days to register, at a point some people get discouraged. I advise that more hands should be engaged for such exercise as well as creating more centres,” he said.
Prospective voters in Bauchi decried spending hours to get registered. Some who spoke to LEADERSHIP said people who felt they were better placed overtook those who came out early. A visit to the Bauchi local government registration centre at Kofar Ran revealed frustration among people waiting to be registered.
“I came here at about 2 am today (Friday) to book my space in the queue. This is the best thing for me to do so long as I want to get registered. To my surprise, by the time I reached here, I still met some people with their blankets,” a resident said.
Scores of eligible voters in Delta State, particularly in Effurun expressed disappointment while speaking with our correspondent.
They said they could not be captured due to inadequate personnel and logistics at the various designated centres including the INEC office.
A visit to INEC office at Ovie Palace Road, Effurun, off the popular Effurun-Sapele Road, revealed that the officials on duty there were overwhelmed with the crowd, mostly young men and women who trooped the office to get registered and get their PVC ahead of next year’s election.
The people express anger with officials when our correspondent visited the place for an on-the-spot assessment of the ongoing exercise.
In Cross River, our correspondent reports that there are some communities where many residents still faced great difficulty to complete the process.
Party of the difficulties faced by the people of Operikwu and igede eddi community in Yala 2 LGA of is poor telecommunication network to take care of the registration machines used.
One of the youth leaders in Igede-Eddi Community, Comrade Ogbudu Thomas, while recounting the ordeal faced by residents stated that half of the population had been unable to register due to bad network. The youth leader accused some elites in the LGA of failing to wade into the matter to assist the community resolve the challenge.
Findings revealed that money used to exchange hands between officials of INEC and some of the residents.
“INEC officials are a bit confused given the fact that they are under pressure. They try to deliver but the issue is that leaders of each ward or units want their wards to be handled first, unfortunately in Igede we don’t have power or influence to make them do our bidding.
“As I speak to you now, I can authoritatively tell you that half of our people have not registered,” the youth leader stated.
Inaccessibility to and fro from Operikwu-igede Eddi Community, Yala LGA had also hampered the PVC registration exercise , as vehicles conveying registration materials found it difficult to get to their destinations.
Also Speaking on the issue, Mrs Stella Odama lamented that despite the large turn out by residents to participate in the registration exercise, only a few were captured due to bad network.
Hundredths of people mainly women and young men found it difficult to register in Kano.
According to our findings many women took over the available spaces at the INEC headquarters, Kofar Mata and Indoor Sports Complex where the ongoing registration was carried out.
In an Interview, Mrs Cecilia Nwachukwu and Felicity Nwagwugwu they and some friends from Sabon Gari quarters in Fagge local government had been patrionising the registration centre but fail to get registered due to a number of registrants at the centre.
She informed our correspondent that there was every likelihood that she may not be registered as people were still trooping in daily.
Hajiya Salamatu Aliyu Garba was also at the registration centre trying to be registered in her fifth day of unsuccessful outing.
“Although many of our people were lucky to have registered, the que is too long for someone like me to bear,” Garba, a renowned women activist said.
On their parts, Shu’aib Musa, abd Hassan Ado said although they had almost similar experiences, they would want to appeal to the authorities concerned to extend the deadline so that many Nigerians would register.
Consequent upon the preparation for the just concluded Osun governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC put on hold till further notice the registration exercise in the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Osogbo, the commission’s spokesman in Osun State, Mr Seun Odumosu, said the suspension was necessary to guarantee a hitch-free, fair, free, transparent and credible governorship election in the state.
Some Kaduna residents expressed disappointment over their inability to register and obtain voter’s card.
In Gonigora, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis, some who visited a registration centre for two days told our correspondent that they discovered that the officials did not show up for the exercise despite the public holiday declared by the state government for residents to register.
One of the frustrated residents, Albert Sule, lamented: “We went to the registration centre here in Gonigora yesterday and today but we were told the officials did not come and today Friday the same story they told us. I am going home now because no officials to register us”
Efforts to get reaction from the INEC officials were not successful.
In Enugu, some residents who spoke to our correspondent said initially they were finding it difficult to obtain their Permanent Voter’s Card(PVCs).
They, however, disclosed that the situation later changed, adding INEC had provided enough machines for people to register.
Mr Ndukwe Innocent, a resident of Uwani in Enugu South commended INEC for providing enough machines.
” Initially, we were having difficulties in obtaining our PVCs but after the intervention of INEC, the process is now easy here. There are machines in many places now and people don’t stay for a long time before obtaining their cards,” he stated.
Another resident, Uchenna Obinna, said they were still finding it difficult to obtain their PVCs, citing shortage of INEC officials at designated places.
” Although the machines are available, INEC doesn’t have enough workers to attend to people. I have been trying to obtain my card for more than one week to no avail. Each time I go, they would tell me that they don’t have enough workers and that they will employ more workers.
” I’m tired of going out everyday searching for PVC. INEC should employ more people to do this job and the deadline is close. Many people have not obtained their PVCs and they are crying over that and they want to get their PVCs” he stated.
Also speaking, Mr. Osakwe Uchenna who resides at Agbani said they had not even seen the machines to register for their PVCs to enable them vote during the 2023 general election.
Some residents of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, said they were facing difficulties in getting registered.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend at one of the registration centres of INEC in Orowokwo area of Port Harcourt, a resident who identified herself as Peace, said although she was able to register, it took her almost two days to get it done.
She said: “I was here yesterday (Thursday) and the number of persons waiting to be registered were something else. I picked a number and waited but it did not get to my turn.
“So, we were asked to come back today (Friday). I was here before 9:00am, but look at the time now. It is not up to five minutes ago, when I got registered.”
Another resident, who pleaded for anonymity accused INEC officials of extortion saying that only those who part with money were those attended to without stress.
Eligible voters in Kwara State were making frantic efforts to beat the July 31, 2022 deadline.
In Ilorin, the state capital, residents thronged the various registration centres for the exercise.
Some people said to be canvassers of the various political parties were noticed helping the supporters of their parties get registered.
A resident, Fatai Salam who spoke with LEADERSHIP at the Akerebiata, Ilorin East registration centres, said it was not easy getting registered.
He said people started arriving the registration centre as early as 6am to obtain registration tags which the INEC officials will use to call them in one after the other.
He said some people would not leave the registration centres until 4pm when the registration officers will close for the day.
He pleaded with the concerned authorities to further extend the deadline for registration, noting that” as things are, many people may not meet the July 31 deadline.
At the INEC office in Ilorin West, Dauda LawalAhmed called for increase in the number of INEC officials on ground, adding that “the four staff they have here are overwhelmed with the large turnout of people seeking to register for PVCs.
“Poor internet network is also slowing down the process here,” he added.
Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mal Garba Attahiru Madami, however, assured Kwarans that everyone that presents himself for registration in all the centres would be attended to. He said the registration centres had been decentralized to make the exercise easy for the people of the state.
In Jigawa State, hundreds of people rushed for a last minute opportunity to get registered, while some decided to wait until next time due to long distances to registration points and the long queues.
Despite all the efforts made by INEC in collaboration with the government and civil society to make the registration easier, it did not succeed as the number of eligible voters to be registered appeared to be beyond expectations.
Our correspondent who monitored the exercise in Plateau State observed that people defied the rain and turned out in large numbers to get their PVCs before the expiration of the deadline.
At the INEC State headquarters office along Miango Road, Jos South LGA, people mostly youths were seen falling over one another to ensure they are captured, while others were seen patiently waiting in the queue for their turn.
One of those who was seen at one of the centre Usman Johnson decried lack of INEC personnel pointing out that the registration was going on at a slow pace .
He appealed to INEC to ensure they deployed enough personnel and machines to be able to register as many people as possible per day as time is running out..
The exercise in Imo State witnessed a large turnout of residents, thereby creating logistics challenges for INEC, as the officials were not able to cope with the surging crowds.
Residents appealed to INEC to extend the deadline to enable them register and obtain the card.
Respondents, who spoke with LEADERSHIP at the INEC registration and revalidation centre in Owerri, stressed that they had not been able to register after visiting the centre for more than one week.
We Won’t Extend Registration Beyond Today—INEC
But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insisted yesterday that the Continuous Voter Registration exercise would not be extended beyond today’s extended deadline.
It also urged the National Assembly to expedite action and pass the Electoral Offences Bill currently before it to ensure more credible polls in 2023.
Specifically, INEC national commissioner in charge of publicity and voter education, Barrister Festus Okoye, asked the National Assembly to pass a bill for the establishment of mobile courts to conduct on-the-spot trial of any person who commits electoral offence during the general election.
Okoye who spoke during an interactive session with newsmen at the commission’s state headquarters in Awka, Anambra State, yesterday promised that the commission was ready to give the nation the most credible, free and fair election ever held in the country in 2023.
He stated that the commission had already perfected a programme to give proper training to all polling officials and operatives of security agencies on what constitutes electoral offences ahead of the polls to ensure that no electoral offender escapes the wrath of the law.
The INEC spokesman stated that in the coming general elections polling unit officials would be empowered under the proposed electoral offences bill to order security operatives in their respective polling units to arrest anyone found to have committed an electoral offence while security operatives attached to polling units would as well have power to arrest any person who violates the electoral law and take the person to court for trial and sentenced according.
He described “vote buying and trading” as the greatest challenge that could mare the credibility of the out come of the coming general elections, but assured that the Commission had perfected plans to ensure that only eligible voters who put up physical appearance at the polling units, and, were authenticated by the Biometric Voters System, BVAS, machine as the actual owner of the Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVC, they possessed would be allowed to cast votes.
He commended community and church leaders, presidents-general of town unions in Anambra State, as well as, traditional rulers in Anambra state for the support the gave the the Commission’s staff members during the CVR exercise.