Editor's Note: Veteran political commentator Jide Ojo in this piece writes about the voters registration process ahead of the 2023 general elections.
According to an online source, The Spruce, the term “RSVP” comes from the French expression répondezs’ilvousplaît, meaning “please respond.” If RSVP is written on an invitation, it means the host has requested that the guest should respond to say if they plan to attend the party.” Comically, RSVP has been twisted to mean, Rice and Stew Very Plenty. However, I’m using the acronym in the context of election. It means Register, Select, Vote and Protect your vote.
The ‘R’ has been going on for sometime now. The Independent National Electoral Commission flagged off the current Continuous Voters Registration exercise since June 28, 2021. The commission for the first time introduced an innovation called online pre-registration where prospective registrants will fill in their details online and choose a date for the capturing of their biometrics and facials at any INEC office of their choice. This was done by the commission to avoid overcrowding at the registration centres. More so, the country is still battling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from registering to vote, registrants can review the status of their voter registration, request to update their information or transfer their voter registration to another polling unit.
According to INEC Voter Registration Update for Quarter 4, Week 15 as at 7am, Monday, July 25, 2022. Fresh registrants stand at 10,487,972; completed registration is 11,011,119. Further breakdown shows that online registrants are 3,391,940; physical registrants, who went directly to perform the civic exercise at INEC offices, are 7,619,179. Of this number are 5,453,071 males while females are 5,558,048. Persons with Disabilities are 80,101 while youth are 7,828,570.
INEC had planned to stop the Continuous Voters Registration at the end of last month. However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project dragged the commission to court; asking it not to stop the exercise. On June 21, 2022, the Federal High Court in Abuja stopped INEC from ending voter registration on June 30 as initially announced. Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon granted an order of interim injunction following the hearing of an argument on motion ex parte by SERAP.
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The commission met in an extraordinary session on Friday, July 15, 2022, and discussed among other things, the suspension of the ongoing CVR. This followed the judgement delivered by the Federal High Court on Wednesday July 13, 2022 in which it dismissed the suit filed by SERAP which is seeking an extension of the exercise beyond June 30, 2022. The Court affirmed that INEC is at liberty to appoint a date of its choice to suspend the CVR, provided it is not later than 90 days before the date fixed for the general elections as provided in Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
I hereby reproduce the decisions taken by INEC at its July 15 meeting:
“The CVR is hereby extended for another two weeks until Sunday, July 31, 2022, thereby bringing the total duration of the extension to 31 days (July 1 – 31, 2022); The exercise has also been extended to eight hours daily from 9.00am – 5.00pm instead of the current duration of six hours (9.00am – 3.00pm) daily; and the exercise is also extended to include weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) as against only weekdays.”
To justify the suspension of the CVR exercise at the end of this month, the commission said it is expected to do a lot under the electoral legal framework in relation to voter registration and compilation of the register. For instance, the commission is required to clean up the register to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System better known as ABIS; consolidate the national register of voters (existing voters and new registrants) and display the 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. On the basis of a new projection of 95 million voters, on the basis of 10 voters per page, the commission has to print 9,500,000 pages for the display.
Furthermore, the commission is expected to print millions of Permanent Voters’ Cards for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs; INEC is also to ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 general elections; print the final register of voters in triplicate for the 2023 general elections involving a projected 28,500,000 pages for accreditation and display at 176,846 polling units for national elections (presidential and National Assembly) on February 25, 2023 and state elections (governorship and State Assemblies) on March 11, 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 elections.
Dear compatriots, if you know you’re 18 years and above and have not previously registered, you still have some five days to the end of the month to register. If you’re tired of the situation of this country and desire a positive change, if you want to participate in recruitment of new set of political leaders, if you want to show yourself as a law-abiding and patriotic citizen, please ensure you come out to register in the remaining days to the end of the month. Election is the way for a peaceful change of leadership and government. Peradventure you have registered previously and lost your PVC or it is defaced or damaged, you do not need to register again. All you need to do is to go online to INEC continuous registration dedicated portal and fill the necessary forms to request for replacement of your lost or damaged PVC. The same procedure could be followed for those who want to move their registration details from one polling unit to another. Also note that INEC’s PVC does not expire.
I must commend the Inclusive Friends Association and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement better known as YIAGA Africa for their targeted mobilisation of Nigerians to come out to register. The association decided to partner with INEC and National Commission for Persons with Disabilities to bring CVR exercise to the PWD communities. The exercise, which started on Monday, July 25, will end on Friday July 29, 2022. The Vote-Ability CVR Centres include: Pilot Primary School, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja; Abuja School for the Deaf, Kuje; Abuja Children Home, NyanyaKaru, after Karu Police Station; Government Girls Secondary School Dutsen Alhaji-Bwari; Disability Colony, Kalamajiji and Junior Secondary School, Gwagwalada. YIAGA Africa in partnership with the European Union on Saturday, June 11 and 25 in Lagos and Abuja respectively organized Youth Vote Count Mega Music Concert as part of efforts to encourage young Nigerians to register to vote.
With voter registration winding down, what is next is for INEC to make good its promise to ensure that all those who have registered to vote get their PVCs before the 2023 general elections. Because that’s the only way they can participate in the other citizen-centric electoral activities which is to ‘S’ – Select, ‘V’- Vote and ‘P’- Protect their votes. INEC should therefore not disappoint the new and even old registrants. Those who have endeavoured to collect their PVCs should not ‘dull’ themselves (as it is said in local parlance) by not coming out to vote. A better Nigeria is possible if we participate in the election of good political leaders in the 11,082 elective offices in the country.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Legit.ng.