Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Independent National Electoral Commission has said it has registered 79,000 new voters within the last two months in the on-going Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in Rivers State.
This is as the commission said it would create new centres to ease the challenges people in the state faced in the on-going exercise.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Elder Aniedi Ikoiwak, told THISDAY yesterday that the commission was satisfied with the massive turnout of people to register in the exercise and was seeking ways to ensure that all prospective voters in the state were captured.
On the turnout of people, Ikoiwak said, â€œYes the CVR in the state is going on well, apart from Lagos, Rivers is the second state that has recorded the largest in the exercise. We have close to 79,000 so far registered voters and I think that is the second highest in the country, next to Lagos state.
â€œThere is no local government that has not recorded over 1,100. A place like Obio/Akpor has recorded over 6,000 persons. In Port Harcourt, we have recorded over 5,000. The least is Opobo/Nkoro which has registered only 1,160 persons,â€ he said.
He however said the commission was concerned about people in areas with harsh terrain who had difficulty accessing the registration centres.
He said the commission would create new centres in such areas so that the people would have easier access to centres close to them instead of travelling to the INEC offices in the local government headquarters for the exercise.
He explained: â€œIf you look at the terrain in places like Asaritoru, Akukutoru, Degema, Andoni, Opobo/Nkoro and Bonny Local Government Areas; because of the difficult terrain there, the commission is going to create centres, the centres are not going to be permanent; the permanent one is still the one at the local government. This is just to make sure that people in those areas who are anxious to register do so because the terrain is so bad.
â€œFor example, somebody who wants to go to Bakana will leave Degema local government headquarters, come to Port Harcourt, and travel through Port Harcourt to get to Bakana. That means somebody who wants to register in Degema local government headquarters would travel from Bakana to Port Harcourt to get to Degema. So we decided that we should go to Bakana and open a mini centre there, our staff would be sponsored to travel down there for a period of time. We want to start by letting the people know so they can gather themselves, those who are above 18 and those who havenâ€™t registered and get ready because the registrations there are permanent.
He also stated that the commission would create new desks at Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas because of the crowd.
Giving details, he said, â€œBut for these other areas with bad terrain, for instance we are picking a group with RA (Registration Areas) 10, 12 and 13, these three RAâ€™s are in the waterside areas, so we would pick a place where all of them can come with their small canoes and register instead of travelling.
â€œIn Akukutoru we are also trying to create a place for Wards 15, 16, 17 and in Degema, the Bakana area wards 16 and 17, we would create a place for them.
â€œIn Andoni, we also want to take ward 10 and 11. They are also off in the sea. In Opobo/Nkoro, we also want to create a unit in Nkoro for wards 9, 10 and 11 because all of them always travel to Opobo. In Bonny, we would ask the people to arrange a place for us in the Finima area for us to do the registration because we discovered that those areas are very far.â€
He also said the commission would create additional desks in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas because of the large number of persons who turn out for the exercise.
His words: â€œEvery day we went to Obio/Akpor, we discovered that the number of persons who turn up in Obio/Akpor cannot be accommodated in one day. You have at times 300 people coming in a day and you will only be able to register 100 on that day.
â€œSo in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt, we are going to create a new centre still in the place, these ones are not going to be outside, so that what is happening in Desk A will also take place in Desk B. The same complement of staffs and machines will be put there, so if 150 goes to Desk A, 150 can go to Desk B. This is to decongest the number that turns out every day.â€
He appealed to the people of the state not to read political meanings to the efforts of the commission.
â€œThese exercises are apolitical because people read meanings to everything you want to do, so we want to appeal to the people of Rivers to look at it as strictly an attempt by the commission to try to ease the transport problem of the people in these areas,â€ he said.
He however said the major challenges facing the commission were the dearth of machines and personnel as the commission was not using ad hoc staff.
â€œThe major problem we have now is the low number of machines and personnel because the commission does not want to involve ad hoc staff. This is because the experience we had in the past has shown that some of the registrations were not properly done,â€ he said.
He stated that the CVR was continuous and would cater for those who have just attained the age of 18 and those who had challenges in the previous exercise.
He said, â€œThe continuous exercise does not have an end limit, the continuous exercise is something that is supposed to happen every working day, eight hours a day on all working days, it is to accommodate mainly, those persons who have attained the age of 18 and other people who may not have registered. It also provides a window for transfer.
â€œYou will also have the opportunity to collect the cards of persons who did not collect their when they were displayed at places where they ought to have collected them.
â€œThere is also opportunity for corrections for persons who have their voters card and observed that their names was not spelt correctly.so those persons too would also report with their correct name, a new card will be printed for them that will have their correct name.â€