Civil Society Wants Edo Continuous Voter Registration Extended

By Omon-Julius Onabu and Adibe Emenyonu
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has received a pat on the back for the efforts it made to ensure that the week-long continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise in Edo State was successful by covering all the designated centres.
However, the civil society organizations, under the auspices of Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), also known as the Centre for Transparency Advocacy, appealed to INEC to extend the dated CVR exercise, which took place simultaneously in Edo and Ondo states, to July, 2016.
The period of extension is strongly recommended as many long queues were recorded at most registration centres on Sunday, June 26, 2016, the final day for the special CVR, with many prospective voters unable to register subsequently, it said.
If an extension of time until July for the exercise is granted by the nation’s electoral umpire, there would still be ample room to deal with issues relating to verification of the registration process in the state and ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State holding in September, the group added.
At a roundtable held in Benin-City on observations on the entire exercise as monitored by members of the group deployed to designated registration centres across the three senatorial zones of Edo State, the ISDMG noted that electoral agency made commendable efforts to ensure that as many eligible people as made themselves available for the exercise were duly registered.
Apart from the deployment of staff and materials including laptops, INEC also provided avenue for registered voters who were yet to collect their permanent voter’s card to do so at the stipulated registration centres, the centre for transparency advocacy noted.
However, the Dr Chima Amadi-led ISDMG decried the inadequacy of law enforcement agents, especially policemen deployed to the voter registration centres, saying no more than one apparently unequipped policeman was assigned to maintain law and order at the registration centres for the duration of the CVR exercise.
While noting that voter registration is as critical to the electoral process as actual voting on Election Day, the ISDMG urged the appropriate authorities to ensure better security in future exercises by deploying more men and working materials like communication devices as well as reasonable accommodation for the security personnel.
The group also frowned at the lack of provision for the physically challenged and others like the aged and pregnant women as stipulated in the INEC voter registration guidelines.
It nevertheless commended the large turnout and peaceful conduct of people wishing to register and ordinary citizens who assisted to ease the work of registration officials by proving generating sets, fans and helping to ensure that prospective voters were orderly.
“The large turnout and generally peaceful conduct of the people – there were only isolated cases of disorder or violence – are perhaps an indication that many more Nigerians are increasingly conscious of the need to register to be able to vote during elections”, ISDMG leader, Dr Amadi told THISDAY after the roundtable rose.
Although the ISDMG described the just ended CVR exercise in Edo State as “a fair outing” in terms of the performance of all the stakeholders, the group strongly recommended intensification of Voter Education in the country, saying it was clear that a lot of work needed to be done still in making the people recognise the importance of their individual role in promoting the electoral process and democracy in Nigeria.