Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why you should register to vote

Last Thursday, April 27, 2017, the Independent National Electoral Commission moved to a critical phase in its ongoing preparations for 2019 General Elections. The Commission began a three-in-one exercise named Continuous Voters Registration Exercise. CVR is an exercise meant for the registration of citizens who turned 18 years of age after the last registration exercise; or those who for one reason or another could not register in the previous exercises. Section 10 of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) mandates the Commission to carry out CVR nationwide and to make available to every political party within 60 days after each year, the names of the addresses of each person registered during that year.
According to information gleaned from INEC website page, the main activities during the ongoing nationwide CVR are: Fresh Registration, Transfer of Voters, and Distribution of Permanent Voters Card. The Continuous Voter Registration exercise is taking place at the INEC Local Government offices and designated centres between the hours of 9.00am and 3.00pm daily, Mondays to Fridays, excluding public holidays. The Preliminary Register of Voters shall be displayed for public scrutiny at Registration Centres at the end of every quarter before printing of the PVCs. The Registration Area Officers will print the list of registered voters for the quarter and display same at the Registration Centres for seven days.
It is noteworthy that the CVR is not an all comers affair. According to the electoral law, to be eligible for CVR, a person must meet the following criteria: Must be a citizen of Nigeria; Must have attained the age of 18 years, on or before the registration day; Is above 18 years and could not register in any of the previous registration exercise; Is resident, works in, or originate from the LGA/Area Council or RA/Ward covered by the Registration Area Centre; Not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rules or regulations in force in Nigeria; Must present him/herself to the CVR officers for registration and is able to provide proof of identity, age and nationality, if requested; Has registered before but his/her name/photograph/fingerprints were not captured; such a person must provide his/her Temporary Voters Card; Has PVC or TVC but names not on Register of Voters.
The registration process is based on the following: CVR is done in person and not by proxy: Anyone who wishes to register must appear in person at the CVR Centre of registration. Multiple registrations is not allowed. A Voter can only register in one registration Centre, if the voter resides in more than one constituency, he/she must choose only one location to register to avoid double registration, which is an offence punishable by law. Underage registration is a crime punishable under law. Thus, anyone under the age of 18 has no business at the registration centres. Registration Officers are to give priority and support to vulnerable groups including persons with disabilities, the aged, infirm, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Registration is a pre-requisite for exercising the right to vote. Those who don’t have PVCs and whose names are not in the Register of Voters will not be allowed to vote on the Election Day. This is the crux of the matter. Many Nigerians complain about the mis-governance or bad governance in the country. Such persons need to know that one of the ways to effect leadership change in a democracy is through voting at elections. Thus, to vote leaders of their choice, they must register ahead of elections and must come out to exercise their franchise when the need arises. It is important for the electorates to note that the PVC, apart from giving them opportunity to vote, is also a means of identification for business such as banking transactions.
Last week Tuesday, April 25, I was on Midday Dialogue with Inya Ode on Nigeria Info 95.1 FM in Abuja to discuss INEC activities ahead of 2019 General Elections. Some of the callers were asking to know how they could transfer their voting details. Here is the INEC guideline for doing so.  A person who relocated to another place, outside the constituency in which he registered cannot vote in his new location unless he transfers his registration. Section 13 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended provides for Transfer of Registered Voters.
Procedure for Transfer:-  Step 1 -  The person who intends to transfer his registration will write an application to  INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner of the State  where he is currently residing. Step 2 - The applicant will attach his voter’s card to the application. Step 3 - The applicant must apply to the REC not later than 30 days before the date of an election in the constituency where he or she is residing. Step 4 - The REC will direct the Electoral Officer of the applicants Local Government Area to enter his name in the transferred voters list. Step 5 - The EO will assign the applicant to a polling unit in his constituency. Step 6 - The EO will issue the applicant with a new voter’s card. Step 7 - The EO will retrieve the applicants’ previous voter’s card.  Step 8 - He will then send a copy of the entry to the EO of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered. Step 9 - Upon receipt of this entry, that Electoral Officer shall delete the name from his voters list. Apart from State Headquarters Offices of INEC, applicants can also submit their applications at the INEC Office in their LGAs. The applications will be forwarded to the REC for necessary action.
Could you believe that there are 7.8 million Permanent Voters Card whose owners are yet to collect them from INEC offices nationwide? Yet, during elections many of these people will be accusing INEC of ineptitude and disenfranchisement. The current CVR exercise is another opportunity for those who have previously registered but are yet to collect their PVCs to do so. Those who have collected their PVCs must guard it jealously. They must handle it with care as it contains an antenna which, if damaged, will make the card unreadable by the INEC Smart Card Reader. They must also not trade with it by selling it to desperate politicians; neither should they seek to be bribed before they could vote.
It behooves INEC to clean up the National Register of Voters. I am not unaware of the weeding out of multiple registrants through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System software better known as AFIS. However, since the 2011 nationwide Voters Registration exercise, many potential voters must have died. Even, a sizable number of the uncollected 7.8 million PVCs may belong to those who engage in multiple registration or have died. INEC therefore must find a creative way to remove the names of the dead from its database.
Lastly, with the ongoing CVR taking place at INEC LGA offices, the Commission must move quickly to create additional Polling Units especially in many of the new settlements without PUs. It would be recalled that the immediate past board of INEC under Prof. Attahiru Jega attempted to create about 30,000 in addition to the existing 120,000 PUs ahead of the 2015 General Election but had to suspend it due to cries of lopsided distribution between the Northern and Southern Nigeria. Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s Commission will do well to create new PUs in order to ease the stress on voters who have to go long distance to vote during election; more so, when there is usually restriction of movement. Voters must know well in advance of where they will vote since the Registration Centre does not approximate Polling Unit.

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