Nzuko Umunna:Why Voter registration should be extendedJuly 31, 2022
BY Prof. Chika Moore and Hon Emmanuel Mok
Nzuko Umunna, a Think Tank group of Igbo Professionals refers to the above subject matter and requests the Partnership /Collaboration of your organisations towards actualization of its voters’ registration and PVC Collection Support Initiative.
This initiative is driven by the urgent need to ensure increased opportunity of qualified Nigerians desirous of registering and participating in the 2023 elections to get registered and vote at the elections. Presently, as Nigerians prepare to go to the electoral polls in 2023 and elect a new government, many individuals are facing challenges of getting registered and those that have registered are finding it difficult to collect their PVCs. Though, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended the days for registration to 31st July, 2022, the reality on ground is that the period given is insufficient to capture the huge number of persons willing to register and get their PVCs before the forthcoming 2023 elections.
Clearly the short period of additional few days given by INEC is not necessary going by Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 which provides that: “The registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters under this section shall stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act”. Going by this provision, the Electoral umpire is still within time to continue registration way beyond 31st July as communicated by INEC. The registration period can be legally and conveniently extended to 30th September 2022.
Identified areas of concern deserving urgent attention in the electoral process are Voters registration, printing and distribution of PVCs which are still very outstanding. INEC is therefore expected to do more for the entire process to proceed more effectively and successfully. Fundamental action that INEC needs to take if it really wants to register every or most of the qualified and willing citizen is to communicate clearly the extension period for registration and give adequate time for this (we suggest that the extension period ends on 30th September 2022 at the least). INEC also needs to release all or most of the electoral biometrics registration capture machines to all the Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria paying special attention to major cities and towns of Nigeria and the whole South East region of Nigeria especially.
The 209 units of machines INEC released across the country are a drop in the ocean of needs. If these machines are deployed to only Lagos State for example, the twenty LGAs in the State will receive just 10 units per LGA. It is pertinent to note that each of these LGAs have populations in excess of one million people.
Facts on ground indicate that the minimum length of time to register a person is about 15 minutes, if data capturing is fast. However, this can take much longer time, where the process is slow. So in a 9 hour day, from 9am to 6pm with 540 minutes, each machine is expected to attend to approximately 36 persons. This translates to 900 persons a month of 6 days including Saturdays working 9am to 6pm daily without break without stop.
If average of 36 persons are successfully registered per machine, per day, with the addition of 10 machines added to the present average of 5 machines presently making 15 then, the outcome would be registration with 15 machines x 36 persons x 25days which comes to 13, 500 persons monthly per LGA. So, for three months of extension period, this will amount to registration of 40,500 persons for each LGA and 810,000 for the entire 20 LGAs of Lagos State. We believe this 810,000 is less than 30% of the number of people wanting to do fresh registration in Lagos state alone.
Same situations are prevalent in all other states of the country. The numbers may be less, however, they reasonably reflect same challenge. Going by the analysis from Lagos State, the 209 machines released by INEC are very inadequate considering the number of persons desiring to be registered across the country. Reports have it that many states outside Lagos are worst hit in terms of machine and manpower gaps. Some LGAs have only 4 machines and in some cases, some of these are not working. It is important and very urgent that major LGAs with big towns are provided with 30 registration machines while not so populated ones are given 15 new machines each.
INEC has very large quantities of these machines in storage and unused. They need to be deployed. If this is not done, one may be compelled to believe that INEC is planning on rigging the 2023 elections by purposeful disenfranchisement of large populations of interested eligible voters. 3. Another area INEC must take effective timely action is in the area of printing and distribution of PVCs. We need your support to persuade and strengthen INEC in terms of deploying efficient and effective means of printing and distribution of the old and newly printed cards to enable the owner’s vote.
It will be very helpful to have a policy in place to enable those that INEC could not give their voter cards to vote. The policy can allow these persons to be identified with their temporary registration slips and any other officially recognized means of identification in Nigeria, so, they too can vote. 4. For effective printing, we propose that more machines be procured and printing be done on a state-by-state basis. For distribution, that religious and community-based associations be coopted into the distribution support system. There is urgent need to put in place modalities to ensure speedy printing and card collection protocols to enable INEC deliver on its mandate.
SUMMATION: 9 hours a day = 9 x 60 min = 540min daily Monthly = 25 x 540 = 13,500 min a month At 15 min person = 13,500 min /15 = 900 persons a month per machine 5 machines = 5 x 900 = 4,500 persons a month 15 machines = 900 x 15 = 13,500 persons a months For 3 months = 13,500 x 3 = 40,500 persons per LGA with 15 machines. For 20 LGA = 40,500 x 20 = 810,000 persons for 15 machines each for three months. With 30 machines per LGA 1,620,000 will be registered in the 20 LGAs of Lagos for 3 months From the above analysis you see that no matter the period of extension, if as many as 30 machines are not released to each of the LGAs especially in the middle belt, the South West, South East and South South regions, no appreciable impact can be made.
5. Some of the identified challenges with the registration process are: i. Poor INEC staff control ii. Overwhelmed workforce and inadequate number of machines deployed. iii. Staff demanding bribes. iv. Alleged deliberate frustration of efforts of individuals of South-Eastern extraction to register in states like Lagos and Abuja. v. Many registered voters have serious difficulties collecting their PVCs, even years after for some. Giving cause for serious concern are videos online showing large numbers of discarded voters cards. 6. INEC suspended the fresh online registration portal on the 30th of May 2022, asking all those needing to freshly register to go to their LGA offices to do so.
Going by reports across the whole country, it is clear that a very large population of people still need to register and utilizing only physical registration process will not be helpful. It is important and very helpful to open the online App again as this would reduce the challenges of physical registration, since completing the registration questions will be achieved faster online by the individual, his/her pictures easily captured, whilst only biometrics is left to be captured physically at the INEC LGA offices. This will save a lot of time and enable more people to register. 7. Having done a critical analysis of the challenges on ground at the LGA offices; given the fact that INEC officials appear to be seriously overwhelmed and considering the large target population, technological needs and the proposed dates of the elections, we propose that the following steps be taken urgently to address these issues.
A. That reasonable legally permissible policy be put in place as additional means of identifying already registered and captured voters whose PVCs were not issued by INEC, to enable them vote. Their human biometrics can be used for accreditation since the machines can read finger prints. Such persons can also come with their temporary cards and any other official means of identification as a means of accreditation. This way the second leg of the registration process, the challenges that may arise from INEC’s inability to print and issue PVCs to eligible registered voters will be substantially addressed.
The communications made in this letter regarding the challenges on ground and possible solutions to them are made by our organization for the purposes of getting relevant stakeholders understand what the issues are and to solicit support that would further strengthen INEC to effectively and efficiently deliver on its mandate regarding the 2023 elections especially as it concerns citizens participation in the process.
We therefore request the support of your Excellency towards achieving the following: 1. Advocacy to INEC to improve their processes in terms of urgent deployment of adequate human and material resources for continuous voter -registration and especially for the collection of PVCs 2. Support campaign for non-discriminatory processes in terms of providing services to voters across the federation. 3. Continued Voter sensitization and encouragement towards registration and collection of PVCs. 4. Support the use of Traditional & Religious institutions and Civil Society and Youth Organizations platforms in distribution of PVCs to registered voters. 5. Any other help the Embassy of America can render towards smooth voter registration and collection of PVCs 6. Persuade INEC to use the individual’s biometrics to identity registered voters whose cards are not ready and for those whose cards had any issue so they can vote. We look forward to receiving your positive response.