Importance Of Voter Registration, By INEC
An official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Chinwe Ogbuka, highlights the strategic importance of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) to future elections and democracy.
One of the key activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC preparatory to the 2019 general elections is the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).The commission has roled out the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR). Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu officially flaged-off the CVR in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ,while the National Commissioners launched the exercise in states in their respective zones.
The commission derives its power for this exercise from section 10 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended), which empowers it to carry out regular updates of the register of voters through the CVR. Thus: ”Without prejudice to section 10(5) there shall be continuous registration of all persons qualified to be registered voters.”
The decision to commence the exercise was reached last week at a meeting between the Commission and the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) held at INEC headquarters, Abuja. The Chairman had in a previous meeting during the first quarter of the year, announced that the nation- wide CVR will begin in April.
Prof. Yakubu, while briefing the RECs and Administrative Secretaries disclosed that the Commission has come up with modalities for the CVR to ensure effectiveness efficiency.
Of course, CVR is a regular activity of the Commission, particularly before general or governorship elections in states but some innovations are being introduced to ensure that as much as possible, capture every eligible voter who presents himself/ herself for the exercise gets registered.
Applicant for registration shall appear in person at the registration venue with any of the under listed documents as means of identification; birth or baptismal certificates, international passport, national identity card or driver’s licence, or any other document that will move the identity age and nationality of the applicant. This is necessary if the Registration Officer doubts his/her age or citizenship.
The CVR provides opportunity for Nigerians who have turned 18 years of age after the last exercise to register. Equally, those who could not register during any of the previous registration exercises will be registered during this year’s CVR. Also registered voters who have Temporary Voters’ Card (TVCs) but whose names are not on the register of voters have the opportunity to be captured .
The nationwide CVR is set out to register all those eligible voters who make themselves available for the exercise; to distribute PVCs to those who are yet to collect their cards and to attend to those who wish to transfer their registration to their present location from where they originally registered.
The CVR will be done at the local government area offices of the Commission nationwide for now but this may be extended to other designated areas of the local government in due course.
The Chairman said at the meeting with RECs that once the exercise takes off, it will continue at the local government until close to the 2019 general elections, ‘meaning from now till then, registration will be on- going. The exercise will scale down to ward level as the election date approaches.’
The Commission has made adequate arrangement to address the problems of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have lost their PVCs due to dislocation from their homes. The issue of the IDPs is of paramount importance to the Commission as they are Nigerians who have equal right to elect their leaders. The Commission will reprint PVCs of IDPs and other persons affected by security challenges in all parts of the country, so they can vote during the elections.
Concerned about the plight of the IDPs, and having realised their right to participate in electoral process Prof. Yakubu noted that “so many people have returned to their communities and so many have lost their PVCs due to dislocation.’’
Preparatory to the commencement of the exercise, the Information and Communication Technology ICT department of the Commission has carried out a three- day intensive training on Open VR software, Hard ware maintenance (laptop and accessories) and CVR guidelines for Head Of Department (HOD) ICT and Voter Registry (VR). The HOD/ICT/VR and state trainers conducted training of registration Area Officers (RAOs) at the state offices of the Commission and the training was monitored by The Electoral Institute, the training arm of the Commission, in conjunction with state offices.
To ensure its readiness for the exercise, the ICT dept has selected sound and functional Direct Data Capture Machines (DDCMs) for the exercise. It has also updated voter enrolment software which will enable data harmonisation with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). All the DDCMs to be deployed are already purged and configured, while the register of voters used for the 2015 general elections is being updated with cases of voter transfers being addressed.
Since the (CVR) is going to continuous, the Commission will display, on quarterly basis the Preliminary Register of Voters (PRV) for public scrutiny at registration centre for seven days before PVCs are printed. The period of display is for claims and objections, to enable registrants to cross-check their names and ensure that their details are properly captured and names are spelt correctly or to object to any name not being entitled to be in the register.
For those who intend to relocate or have relocated to a new residence since they registered, the Commission has made adequate arrangements to ensure that they are not denied the opportunity to elect the persons of their choices.
Such persons who intend to transfer their registration are reminded to apply to INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the state he/she currently resides through the Electoral Officer (EO) of the Local Government Area.
While efforts are being made to capture all eligible voters across the country, the Commission advises those who are already registered not to register again, as it is an offence to register more than once. During the period, those who have their cards damaged or lost will be replaced for them following due process.
INEC has assured Nigerians of credible conclusive elections in 2019 but this requires the cooperation and support of critical stakeholders of which, voters are parts of. Nigerian citizens can help in advancing the electoral process by ensuring that they get registered. So get registered, collect your PVCs, safeguard them and use them wisely during election as they constitute the necessary requirement to participate in the electoral process.
Ogbuka is Assistant Publicity Director, INEC.