2023: INEC Denies 7m Nigerians

2023: <strong>INEC Denies 7m Nigerians</strong>
  • Records 12m new registrants in 13 months
  • Insists no extension of deadline
  • Stranded Nigerians accuse INEC of irregularities
  • As NW, SW record highest registered voters

Teddy Nwanunobi

Over seven million Nigerians will not be able to exercise their franchise in the February 2023 General Elections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, disclosed that over seven million Nigerians who carried out their voter pre-registration online did not complete the process at physical centres.

This is as the Continuous Voter Registration exercise, CVR, came to an end on Sunday, July 31.

In preparation for the 2023 general elections, the Commission began the CVR exercise in June 2021 to enable Nigerians who had just attained the voting age and others to register.

Consequently, it launched a portal where Nigerians can register by filing in their bio data and required documents, after which they would visit the INEC designated centres to complete the process physically.

Going to a physical centre where biometric capturing would be done was a prerequisite for completing the voter registration process.

According to data released by the Commission, 10,487,972 Nigerians carried out their pre-registration online.

But the INEC said, out of this number, only 3,444,378 Nigerians, representing 32.8% completed the process at a physical centre.

This means 7,043,594 persons, representing over 67% of those who began their registration process online, are not eligible to receive a voter card before the 2023 general elections and will therefore not be able to vote.

Although the INEC said, a total of 12,298,944 Nigerians completed their voter registration, 8,854,566 of that number were individuals who did their registration entirely at a physical centre.

12m new registrants

INEC revealed that over 12 million new applicants have completed their voter registration.

However, data released by the Commission, out of 12,298,944 persons who were able to complete their registration as of 7:am on August 1, a total of 3,444,378 started their registration online while 8,854,566 carried out their registration physically.

Lagos State is in the lead for the number of completed registrations, with 585,629, followed by Kano State, with 569,103, and Delta State, with 523,517.

By zone, the North-West leads with 2,514,273, followed by the South-South with 2,458,095, and the North-Central with 2,314,368.

The South-West accounts for 2,039,982 registrants; the North-East accounts for 1,531,070 registrants; and the South-East accounts for the lowest with 1,441,156 registrants.

According to INEC, youths aged between 18 and 35 constitute the highest number of completed registrations with a total of 8,784,677, while by occupation, students account for the greater number of registrants with 4,501,595.

The Commission’s data also shows that by gender distribution, the number of female registrants sum up to 6,224,866, while that of males is 6,074,078.

INEC had earlier fixed June 30 as the deadline for the CVR ahead of the 2023 elections.

But a Federal High court in Abuja had stopped the Commission from ending the exercise, following several pleas by Nigerians, and a suit filed against the electoral umpire by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, and 185 persons.

The Commission then extended the voter registration till July 31.

No extension

Despite further calls from several quarters to extend the registration deadline, the INEC has insisted that it is not going back on its decision.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, stated 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 elections.

“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, in relation to voter registration and the process of compiling the register requires ample time to accomplish”, Oyekanmi said.

He added that the INEC would need to clean-up the voter register in order to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System, ABIS.

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 polling unit basis for each of the 8,809 wards across the 774 local government areas, LGAs, 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.

Stranded Nigerians

Nigerians, who were not able to register in the CVR, which ended on Sunday, July 31, have expressed frustration over the refusal of the INEC to extend the exercise.

The stranded applicants thumbed down the decision of the Commission to stop the CVR, describing it as a way to disenfranchise them.

Following the case filed a suit at the Federal High Court seeking an extension of the exercise beyond that date on June 5, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, on June 20, granted an order of interim injunction stopping the INEC from halting the registration exercise.

In compliance with the order, the electoral body extended the exercise till July 31.

Despite the extension, however, hundreds of applicants have continued to besiege registration centres nationwide in a bid to register before the deadline.

Despite the extension, thousands of Nigerians in Niger, Kano, Lagos, Katsina, Benue, Ogun and Enugu states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, were not able to participate in the exercise before it ended on Sunday.

In Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC, a large crowd of people was seen milling about at the INEC registration centre near the Roundabout at Karu Site, by the Customary Court, waiting to be attended to by officials.

Some of them complained that they had been at the centre as early as 4:30.am.

“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,” an applicant, Judith, said.

As at 4:30pm on Sunday, over a hundred persons were seen at the FCT INEC headquarters, at Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Garki, waiting to be registered.

The frustrated applicants complained that the INEC staff said they had ended the exercise.

“They refused to register us. They said they had closed and we have been here since 6:am”, Danjuma said.

A Bwari resident, Samson Ikhana, said that he had been visiting the registration centre for about five days, but was not able to be registered.

He accused the electoral officials of unethical conduct.

“There are so many irregularities here ‘man know man’ ,nepotism, is being practiced here”, a visibly angry young man said.

Rush to register

The CVR had resumed on June 28, 2021 to allow Nigerians who clocked 18 years since the 2019 general elections to participate in the 2023 elections.

The exercise was last conducted in 2018.

With the target of capturing 20 million new voters, the INEC conducted the registration online and at centres across the country. The exercise was to last until the end of June 2022.

“The youth want to know when the registration will end. I want to assure you on behalf of the commission that the registration won’t end on June 30. For as long as we have you people trying to register, we will continue to register you,” the Commission’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, told a crowd of expectant registrants at the Old Parade Ground in Abuja on June 25.

His statement came after the Federal High Court in Abuja issued an interim order restraining INEC from closing the exercise on June 30.

Due to rowdy scenes at the registration centres in many parts of the country, a civil society organisation, SERAP had approached the court for the order directing the electoral body to continue the exercise indefinitely.

The applicants in the case had argued that INEC would be disenfranchising many Nigerians if its deadline was not moved.

The development followed a new spark of interest in voter registration in many parts of Nigeria, attributed to recent developments on the political scene in the run-up to the 2023 general elections.

The entrance of a former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and a former governor of Anambra, Peter Obi, into the presidential race has caused excitement among Nigerian youths on social media.

The two politicians had defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to pick up the presidential tickets of the Labour Party, LP, and New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, respectively.

How Nigerians registered

A CVR update by the INEC on its official Twitter account, disclosed how Nigerians registered by the fourth quarter, week 16 as at 7: am on Monday, August 1, 2022.

“Fresh Registrants: 10,487,972; Completed Registration: 12,298,944; Type: Online – 3,444,378; Physical – 8,854,566; Male: 6,074,078; Female: 6,224,866; PWDs: 87,083; Youths: 8,784,677”, INEC said.

Tags assigned to this article: