By AGBONSUREMI AUGUSTINE OKHIRIA, Executive Director, Progressive Impact Organization For Community Development (PRIMORG).
REPORT ON THE OBSERVATION OF THE NATIONWIDE CONTINUOUS VOTER REGISTRATION EXERCISE HELD FROM MARCH 2018 TO AUGUST 2019 CONDUCTED ACROSS THE 6 STATES OF THE NORTH CENTRAL GEO-POLITICAL ZONES AND ABUJA FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY
PRIMORG CALLS FOR MORE EFFECTIVE APPROACH TO CITIZENS’ ENGAGEMENT
AS SURVEY REVEALS GAP IN PEOPPLES’ INVOLVEMENT IN DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN NIGERIA
The Progressive Impact organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) has released its comprehensive report on the just concluded Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and calls for a more comprehensive approach to improve popular participation in the Nigeria’s democratic process.
In the report, which incorporates findings from field observation and a survey in the six North central states of Nigeria and Abuja, PRIMORG says the number of registered voters as released by INEC compared to the population of registerable citizens, 18 years and above is not a good report for a democracy that thrives on popular participation.
The PRIMORG Report says INEC, the NOA, the political parties and other stakeholders, including the media need to work harder and develop templates to be able to mobilise more Nigerians to be involved in elections and other democratic processes.
The report specifically finds that the schedule for the release of PVCs after registration was not good enough to promote the encouragement of would-be voters as over 74% of survey participants were not satisfied that it takes months for INEC to deliver PVCs after registration.
The report however reveals that nearly 80% of the survey participants are willing to vote in the 2019 elections, a clear indication that all the efforts by INEC and the stakeholders to mobilize Nigerians to be interested in voting may resonate positively in a relatively larger number of voters in the coming elections compared to previous elections.
Summary of The Findings
The result revealed that (81.4%) of respondents have registered to vote in the forthcoming elections, (17%) were yet to register while a little above (1.6%) were indifferent. This showed that majority of Nigerians are willing to take part in the forthcoming February, 2018 General Elections in Nigeria. However, some of the impending challenges likely to be faced by prospective registrant may be the reasons for the remaining (18%) who were yet to register as voters.
Similarly, (79%) of respondents agreed to vote in the forthcoming elections, (2%) had no plan to vote and sure would not vote respectively while (4%) have not decided if they would vote or not. (13%) of respondent are somewhat sure of taking part in the elections. These findings underscore the fact that majority of the respondent are willing to vote in the upcoming elections with (79%) ready to vote in the elections. Though (2%) of the respondent of not sure of voting, this is considered very low compared to the remaining (17%) in total who were undecided by answering “somewhat sure (13%)”, “not sure (4%)” respectively.
Overall, (47%) of respondent said INEC did not prepare for the exercise. This showed a below average level of preparation from the commission. This also underscored some of the challenges witnessed in the earlier stage of the exercise such as late arrival of personnel and materials in some registration centres and absence of enabling environment or ideal working space for the commission officials. Though (19%) are undecided, (3%) felt the commission did not prepare at all while (29%) answered “not quite prepared”.
Interestingly, (36%) of respondents said security agencies were prepared, (16%) believed they are not prepared at all while (23%) were indifferent about security preparation for the exercise. With (36%) respondents replied “well prepared (16%) and prepared (20%) combined, the findings showed that security agencies were not prepared for the exercise given the fact that this was a below average performance if 50% is considered average performance. The result also corroborates our observers’ report that shows that little or no presence of security agents were witnessed in many of the registration centres observed. In total, (64%) of the respondent believed security agencies did not prepare well for the exercise. Security deployment would help maintain law and order and also prevent any outbreak of violence in Registration Centres.
Only (9%) of respondents were very dissatisfied with the performance of INEC in the ongoing CVR exercise, (24%) were satisfied, with (28%) dissatisfied and (31%) somewhat satisfied with the commission performance on the exercise. Combining respondents that answered “very satisfied and somewhat satisfied”, the survey showed a total of (54%) respondents, a little above average who were satisfied with the conduct of the commission. The findings possibly describe the untoward hardship in terms of mobility, long suffering in loss of working hours and dislocation of registration centres as a result of lack of information faced by potential registrants during the exercise.
The findings indicated 100% of respondents are aware of the exercise, (29%) of respondents identify “community” as their source of information, (28%) said “television”, (27%) through “radio” while (8%) responded “newspapers” and (8%) through other sources. The survey reveals that majority of the registrants/respondents got information about the exercise through broadcast media (radio and television). These findings therefore portray a high level of awareness across the zone, considering that all respondents across the 7 states of the zone were aware of the exercise; although INEC seemed to devise other innovative ways of engaging communities or disseminating information to them aside the use of broadcast media.
Finally, the results showed (74%) of respondents were not satisfied with the current schedule of the release of PVC by INEC several months after registration. Though, (26%) of them were satisfied with the present arrangement by the commission. However, the poll revealed that majority of respondents (74%) are not satisfied with the current schedule for the collection of PVC by the commission several months after registration. The poll portray disappointment in the present arrangement as citizens yearn for timely processing and collection of PVC by Nigerians.
Observation Findings and Recommendations
Based on its observer reports, Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development PRIMORG found specifically:
- Though the turnout was initially low, there was considerable improvement in the registrant turnout as most registration commenced at 9.00am and closed by 3.00pm in most of the centres observed. This was subsequently extended to include weekends and public holidays by INEC as sudden increase in turnout was observed as the exercise is gradually moving to an end;
- PRIMORG observed initial delay to the start of the exercise due to pockets of system malfunction and short of material. However, the Direct Data Capture (DDC) systems was reported perfectly functioned with back up batteries also provided in some of the registration centres observed;
- There was strict compliance to the provisions provided for means of verifying/identifying prospective voters before processing registrants. The means of verification remains International Passport, National Identity Cards and Drivers’ License and government recognised birth registration certificate;
- Turnout for PVC collection by the owners was abysmally low, as piles of abandoned PVC were seen in most of the registration centres observed. A section of uninformed citizens initially engaged thought PVC expires so attempted second registration;
- Security agents were absent in most of the registration centres observed by PRIMORG. However, this was observed in a few registration centres in the state capitals. This mostly were members of the NSCDC and occasionally police personnel;
- No record of attempts to intimidate or harass people at registration centres was observed throughout the exercise. At least, none was serious enough to disrupt the process;
- PRIMORG observed presence of juvenile (under aged) registrants at the registration centre located in INEC office, Keffi Nasarawa State;
- Some of the registration centres observed lack adequate shelter that could prevent both personnel, equipment and document from effect of weather when it rains. As some of the centres were located in schools’ gate houses or dilapidated facilities in school premises and under trees in a few cases. This was observed in LEA Primary School I, Ushafa, Zuba Primary School in FCT – Abuja, Emirs Palace Keffi and many others
- Some centres lack alternative power supply whenever machines run out of power. Centres were provided with generators by various communities who were also relied upon to fuel the power generator set so as to keep registration going. This was observed at Ushafa II Registration Centre.
PRIMORG however recommends the following:
- That INEC in collaboration with other relevant agencies like NOA and CSOs should intensify effort to sensitise Nigerians who have earlier registered to pick up their PVCs at INEC offices nearest to them;
- That adequate security officers should be deployed to all registration centres to forestall any break down of law and order. These include police, NSCDC and immigration personnel so as to deter possible outbreak of violence and alien registrants in registration centres;
- That Nigerians should desist from multiple registration but ensure that they register close to their places of residence since vehicular movement will be prevented on election day;
- That political party should monitor the process and mobilise members to go out and participate in the process; and
- That Nigerians of voting age who have not registered should do so in the interest of our democracy
Over all, PRIMORG observed substantial improvements in the commission’s effort in ensuring that challenges are identified and addressed timely. However, there is need for public sensitization to encourage those who have not collected their PVC to do so now that the cards are available in the registration centres. INEC should make it a routine to release vital information on the ongoing CVR exercise. This will largely help to calm nerves and allay public fears regarding the exercise.
There have been various campaigns by Nigerians regarding voters’ registration and a vast number of people are seen at the designated centres for the CVR exercise to either register or apply for the transfer of their permanent voter’s card/polling unit. The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said that the commission had over 84 million voters in its register which from all indication shows that more Nigerians are yet to be registered before the 2019 General Elections.
Initially, the CVR exercise commenced at the INEC Local Government offices nationwide and remains continuous all year round on week days but this was subsequently reviewed to include weekends and public holidays so as to give room for more time and Nigerians of voting age to engage the process. The Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise is in pursuance to the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) which mandates INEC to carry out CVR nationwide.
However, as the country is gradually inching close to the 2019 General Election, the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) in collaboration with INEC deployed its observers across the North Central (NC) geo-political-political zone of Nigeria to observe the nationwide continuous voter registration exercise. A two-prong approach was deployed in the implementation of this exercise. The approach essentially helped in monitoring the performance of INEC and the conduct and outcome of the CVR exercise ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
PRIMORG conducted exit polls and deployed a total of one hundred and forty (140) observers including volunteers and observers’ supervisors who are staff of the organization across registration centres in the seven (7) States of the North Central geo-political zone, comprised of Benue, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau respectively. The exercise which lasted for over four months was conducted between April 17th and August 31ts, 2018.
The poll randomly sampled the opinion of Nigerians in the NC geo-political zones of Nigeria about the preparation and conduct of INEC with regards to the nationwide CVR exercise. A total of 1,400 Nigerians (registrants) aged 18 years and above, from seven States in the NC geopolitical zones were interviewed. It’s imperative to note that convenience sampling was adopted to select respondents at the observed registration centres in the zone.