INDEPENDENT National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled June 28, 2021 as new date for the recommencement of the continuous voter registration exercise across the country.
At a press conference on Thursday at its national headquarters in Abuja, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu, said though the Commission has been constrained by the coronavirus pandemic since last year from resuming the exercise, it is now in a position to do so haven put in place measures to overcome challenges posed by the pandemic.
Prof Yakubu revealed that while INEC had previously announced that it would kick off the exercise in the first quota of this year, it was however not able to do so due to three principal reasons.
The first reason, he said, is INEC’s establishment of new systems that would ensure safer Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
To overcome this challenge, Yakubu said the INEC resolved to build an online registration portal that would enable new registrants to commence registration online and subsequently complete the capture of their biometric data at designated registration centres.
“This is designed to reduce crowding. Through the online portal, they can schedule their visits to the registration centres to suit their convenience. Above all, a CVR Locator is integrated into the new portal which will enable online registrants to locate the nearest registration centre available to them to complete their registration. Previously, registered voters who wished to transfer their voting locations, apply for replacement of their PVCs or correct their personal information had to appear physically at the registration centres. The development of this portal, which is being done in-house by our engineers, has taken a little more time to complete than the Commission anticipated,” the INEC Chairman said.
He said the Commission’s determination to expand voter access to polling units is the second reason for the delay in CVR as it has discovered after a recent nationwide engagement with Nigerians the fundamental problem of declining voter access to polling units which were discovered to be inadequate.
According to Yakubu, while the pre-existing polling units were initially designed to cater for a projected capacity of 50 million voters, they are at present serving over 84 million voters.
“In addition, many of the Polling Units are inaccessible to voters, especially Persons With Disability (PWDs), and are not conducive to implementing the Commission’s election regulations, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are glad that most Nigerians agree with the Commission on this issue, and we have commenced a far-reaching programme of converting Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements into full-fledged Polling Units and relocating poorly situated Polling Units to better locations. The Commission needs more time to complete this exercise, so that the new Polling Units will be available for registrants to choose during the CVR exercise,” Yakubu said.
Prof Yakubu tied the third principal reason for the delay to INEC’s decision to introduce a new voter registration equipment and technology. Stating that the present generation of voter registration equipment, which the Commission used in 2011, has become obsolete, Yakubu said “there are now more compact registration devices that will better serve Nigerians during the CVR exercise.”
He said as a result of this, INEC has decided to migrate “to the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), which is based on an Android tablet. The procurement of the new devices, the modification of the registration software by our in-house engineers to make it compatible with the Android Operating System, as well as integrating these with the online registration portal require a little more time. For instance, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners abroad who manufacture the IVED hardware, are not operating at full capacity and the pandemic has also made the supply chain and delivery much slower.”
Yakubu said before the recommencement of the continuous voter exercise, the Commission will be carrying out four major exercises beginning with the expansion of voter access to polling units on 11th May, 2021 followed by building and testing the online registration portal, signposted to start on May 15, 2021.
Other activities, he said, will be the arrival of the new generation of registration devices (the IVED), on May 31, 2021 and the recruitment and training of voter enrolment staff, starting from June 14, 2021.
Prof Yakubu urged Nigerians, especially those who have recently attained voting age of 18 recently “to seize the opportunity of the CVR in order to fulfil the important civic responsibility of voting.”
While calling on registered voters who had issues during accreditation at previous elections to also use the exercise to rectify the problem or those who wish to transfer their voting locations from the present one to another; Prof Yakubu also advised registered voters who have lost their PVCs or whose PVCs have been defaced or damaged; as well as those who wish to correct their information such as misspelling of names, dates of birth, to use the continuous registration exercise to rectify them.