Nigerians have slammed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for discontinuing the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.
According to reports, the Commission began nationwide voter registration in June 2021 to allow Nigerians who had just reached voting age and others to register.
INEC had announced its intention to end the exercise on June 30, 2022, but a civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), filed a suit in the Federal High Court on June 5 seeking an extension of the exercise beyond that date.
As a result, on June 20, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon issued an order of interim injunction prohibiting INEC from suspending the registration process.
In compliance with the order, the electoral body extended the exercise till July 31.
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However, following the refusal of the Commission to extend the CVR exercise, some Nigerians have described it as a way to disenfranchise them from the 2023 polls.
It was reports that thousands of Nigerians in major cities could not participate in the exercise before it ended on Sunday.
In a chat with The Punch, a resident of Kano State, Kevin Nnadi, said he and others had been at the INEC centre for over 15 hours.
“What I observed here is that it depends on who you know and sorting (bribing) somebody. I’ve been here for 15 hours, while some others have been here for three days.”
When asked how the INEC officials have been treating them, he said, “They intermittently come out outside the gate where we have been waiting all day long and call one or two names. Also, from nowhere, they will call names and somebody would just be admitted into the premises while ignoring others who have been waiting for hours.”
Also in Enugu State, it was learned that over 200 individuals could not be registered at the Okpara Square centre on Sunday.
An applicant, Emeka Okongwu, appealed for an extension of time to enable eligible Nigerians to register for the exercise ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He said, “I have been coming to register four times but could not register because of the crowd. I don’t know why INEC did not provide machines for the exercise, especially here in the South East.
“In the North, the machines were provided but here the commission provided few machines and manpower. If I don’t register by the end of today and the exercise is not extended, I may go to court to seek redress.”
Another applicant in Niger State, Ibrahim Musa complained some of them have been at the INEC registration centre near the Eastern bypass in Minna since 5 am and could not register.
He said, “Some of us have been here since 5 am and they (officials) have been keeping us since then. They said they are working with numbers but we wrote our names on a list and no one is using the list. They said they will no longer go by the list but people with cars are coming and driving in and getting registered while we are left here outside the gate.”
Reacting, Rotimi Oyekanmi, Spokesman to the INEC Chairman, Profesor Mahmood Yakubu, said that the commission would not be able to extend the deadline because there is a lot that it still needs to do ahead of the election.
“The commission is pleased to see the renewed citizens’ interest in the Continuous Voter Registration exercise. Unfortunately, the CVR would have to be suspended today July 31, because there is a lot that the commission is required to do under the electoral legal framework, about voter registration and the process of compiling the register requires ample time to accomplish,” he told The Punch.
He added that INEC would need to clean up the voter register to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System.
Oyekanmi added that the electoral body would also need to consolidate the national register of existing voters and new registrants and display the same on a polling unit basis for each of the 8,809 wards across the 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for public scrutiny.
“The commission needs to print millions of permanent voter cards for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs, and ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 general elections,” he stated.