By Azuka Ogujiuba
When Nigeria had its elections in 2011 and 2015, INEC and other individuals presented recommendations on how to improve the process of democracy in Nigeria’s electoral process, never did they expect or foresee that an epidemic like COVID-19 could determine if and when they are allowed to register to vote. Nevertheless, there is always a way around every situation or how else can one explain how Ghana is finding a way around theirs?
In Nigeria, due to the prevalent cases of COVID 19, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stopped voter registration, our neighbouring country, Ghana, has found a way around encouraging more voter registration without physical contact, especially as their elections are near.
INEC has fixed September 19, 2020, and October 10, 2020 for governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, however, only those with permanent voter registration cards can actually participate. The same cannot be said of Ghana as a platform called the PanaBIOS platform, described as a pan-African “safe reopening of countries” technology application, developed as part of the African Union’s Open Corridor Initiative, has been put in place for this reason.
The process was set up by Ghana’s Electoral Commission. “The Electoral Commission is therefore introducing an additional technology tool for the ongoing registration exercise, the upcoming exhibition of the Voters Register and potentially for future elections, with the goal of further enhancing compliance with social distancing rules,” the commission said.
It added: “To participate in the registration, applicants with smartphone access can visit PanaBIOS platform to sign up for an account and follow the prompts for event registration to book a priority spot just in the same way that the USSD option works.”
According to the commission, the new digital system will enable prospective applicants to book a slot in a priority queue from the comfort of their homes.
“The strategy is to limit the number of people that visit the registration centres at any given time. While applicants have the option to use the current manual chit system, the EC encourages applicants to go digital,” it said.
It further stated that applicants with smartphone access can visit PanaBIOS platform to sign up for an account and follow the prompts for event registration to book a priority spot just in the same way that the USSD option works.
Also, applicants can also search for the registration centre codes on the same PanaBIOS platform, even as plans are far advanced to make it possible for registration centre codes to be obtainable from the national COVID-19 hotline, 311, the EC’s website and through media publications.
Come December 2020, Ghana will be going to the polls. There will be no surprises if the number of voters who turn out is impressive because, they have done the needful; they have found a way around ensuring registration is not halted by the pandemic.
Nigeria can take a cue from this as e-registration is possible. Come September 19, 2020, and October 10, 2020, there will be holding governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, if voters who do not have their PVCs can register online from now and then obtain their PVCs, it will help in the number of participants in the voting process.