BY CHINWE OGBUKA
One of the key activities of the National Electoral Commission (INEC) preparatory to the 2019 general elections will commence on Thursday, April 27, 2017. On this day, the Commission will roll out the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in all the 774 Local Government Areas of the country. Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu will officially flag-off the CVR in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while the National Commissioners will perform the launch 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 previous meeting during the first quarter of the year 2017 announced that the nation -wide CVR will begin in April.
At that meeting, the Chairman requested the RECs and Administrative Secretaries (as the case may be) to provide the Commission with necessary information regarding the location for the CVR in the Local Government Areas, the status of the Direct Data Capture Machines (DDCMs) for the exercise, the number of staff required and other materials needed to ensure seamless exercise.
Prof. Yakubu, while briefing the RECs and ASs disclosed that the Commission has come up with modalities for the CVR to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of the exercise. It was a special meeting as explained by the Chairman because of the rolling out of the plans for the CVR.
Of course Voter Registration is a regular scheduled activity of the Commission particularly during major elections and governorship elections in states but some innovations are being introduced to ensure that as much as possible, every eligible voter who presents himself/ herself for the exercise get registered.
As required by law, each applicant for registration shall appear in person at the registration venue with either a birth or baptismal certificate, international passport, national identity card or driver’s licence, or any other document that will prove the identity, age and nationality of the applicant.
The CVR provides opportunity for Nigerians who have turned 18 years of age after the last VR exercise to register. Equally those who could not register during the last general registration exercise will be registered during this CVR. Also registered voters who have Temporary Voters’ Cards (TVCs) but whose names are not on the register of voters have the opportunity to be attended to.
The nationwide CVR, which commences on April 27, was set out to register all those eligible voters who made 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 from their present location to another.
According to the timeline and schedule of activities for the CVR will be done at the Local Government Area offices of the INEC nationwide and remains continuous all year round.
Prof. Yakubu said at the meeting with RECs that once the exercise takes off, it will continue until close to 2019 general elections, ‘meaning from now till then, registration will be on- going. The exercise will scale down to ward Level as 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 the electoral process Prof. Yakubu observed that “so many people have returned to their communities and so many have lost their PVCs due to dislocation. The Commission will print hard copies of the Voter Register to be used to print new PVCs and deliver to the owners,” the Chairman assured.
Preparatory to the commencement of the exercise the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) department of the Commission has carried out a 3- day intensive training on Open VR software, Hardware maintenance (laptop and accessories) and CVR guidelines for Heads 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 department has selected sound and functional DDCMs for the CVR. It has also updated voter enrolment software which will enable data harmonization with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). All the DDCMs to be deployed are already purged and configured while register of voters used for the 2015 general elections is being updated with cases of voter transfers and generation of new register is also being carried out at the National Data Centre of the Commission.
Since the (CVR) is going to be continuous, the Commission will display, on quarterly basis the Preliminary Register of Voters (PRV) for public scrutiny at registration centres for seven (7) days before PVCs are printed. The period of display is to enable registrants to cross-check their names and ensure that their details are properly captured and names are spelt correctly.
For those who intend to relocate or have relocated to new residences since after registration, the Commission has made adequate arrangements to ensure that they are not denied the opportunity to elect persons of their choices.
As specified in the guidelines for transfer of voters, the person who intends to transfer his/her registration will make an application to INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the state he/she is currently residing through the Electoral Officer (EO) of the Local Government Area. This is however, applicable only for transfers from one state to another.
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.
INEC has assured Nigerians of credible and conclusive elections in 2019 but requires the cooperation and support of critical stakeholders of which, voters are part of. Nigerian citizens can do this by ensuring that they are properly registered during the period. So get registered, collect your PVCs, safeguard them and use them wisely during election as they constitute the necessary requirement n for you participate in the electoral process.
Ogbuka is Assistant Director, Publicity, INEC, Headquarters, Abuja