•Restates determination to prosecute Kogi gov
By Chuks Okocha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday announced dates for the resumption of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR), which was suspended in 2017.
The commission, however, ruled out making the National Identity Number (NIN) mandatory for the registration of voters.
It also reiterated its determination to prosecute the Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, for double registration.
INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said at a news conference in Abuja that the registration would be done both manually and electronically.
According to him, the exercise, will commence on June 28.
Other dates for the exercise, he said, were for the expansion of voter access to polling units, to take place on May 11, while the building and testing of the online registration portal were scheduled for May 15.
According to him, the arrival of a new generation of registration devices will be on May 31.
This, he said, would be followed by the recruitment and training of voter enrolment staff on June 14.
“Effective from Monday, June 28, 2021, the continuous voters registration exercise will commence nationwide and carried out continuously for over a year until the third quarter of 2022,” he added.
Yakubu said emphasis during the exercise would initially be on Anambra State where more centres would be established in view of the governorsip election scheduled for November 6, 2021.
He added that in order to complete the preparations for the governorship election, the CVR in the state would be suspended in August.
“This will enable the commission to clean up the data for the state and print the PVCs for registrants. As time goes on, the commission will provide more details on the CVR exercise, particularly the innovations that will ensure a safe and stress-free experience for registrants.
“In doing so, we will fully consult stakeholders. In fact, the first in the series of these consultations will take place after the Easter break,” he said.
Yakubu called on all intending registrants, especially those that turned 18 recently, to to register from June 28.
He said that the commission would be targeting fresh voters between 16 to 20 million during the exercise, adding that over 14 million new voters were registered in the previous exercise.
“The following categories of Nigerians are particularly encouraged to seize the opportunity of the CVR in order to fulfill the important civic responsibility of voting.
“All Nigerians who are 18 years of age and have never been registered to vote; any registered voter who has had any issue during accreditation at previous elections so that the commission can’t rectify the problem; all registered voters who wish to transfer their voting locations from the present one to another; all registered voters who have lost their PVCs or whose PVCs have been defaced or damaged; and all registered voters who wish to correct their information such as misspellings of names, dates of birth etc,” he added.
He stated that when the commission promised the nation to re-commence the CVR in the first quarter of 2021, it had hoped that before 2021, it would have completed all outstanding off-season governorship elections and that the pandemic would have eased.
He, however, said the commission needed time to put in place new systems to facilitate safer registration of voters, should the pandemic persist.
He said the first quarter of 2021 ended Wednesday without the commission resuming the CVR.
Yakubu identified three reasons why the exercise could not start earlier.
He said: “The first is the establishment of new systems that would ensure safer CVR exercise in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The commission is building a new 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 second reason, he said, was the commission’s determination to expand voter access to polling units, with both season and off-season elections.
He said the commission introduced a new voter registration equipment and technology, adding that the present generation of voter registration equipment, which the commission introduced in 2011, is the Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM).
This, he said, was based on a laptop and a series of peripherals connected to it, including large power packs to power the laptops in the field.
“In consideration of these challenges and the measures we have taken to overcome them, the commission is now in a position to announce Monday, June 28, 2021, as the date for the re-commencement of the CVR exercise nationwide,” he added.
Yakubu said NIN would not be mandatory for the exercise as there were other forms of identification approved in Electoral Act.
He stated that no additional budget would be required for the exercise as the funds had since been approved.
He warned that double registration remains an offence under the law.
He reiterated that the commission was still determined to prosecute the Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, for double registrations.
Yakubu said the commission would prosecute the governor as soon the immunity he enjoyed is over.
Citing the recent violence in Ekiti State by-election, Yakubu said the commission was worried because of the spike in violence, but warned that nothing would deter the commission in prosecuting perpetrators of electoral violence and electoral malpractices.
According to him, more than 40 electoral offenders have been successfully prosecuted and convicted since 2016.