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2023: LAMENTATIONS AS VOTERS’ REGISTRATION ENDS

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…Extend exercise by one month — Ohanaeze, ASETU, ADC, LP

…Sen Abaribe decries exploitation by INEC staff

…INEC staff cash-in on deadline to extort registrants in Lagos-Residents cry out

…Lawyers to sue INEC over plan to end voter registration

…Why we can’t extend CVR—INEC boss

…Exercise turns carnival, as prospective registrants besiege centres in Delta

MILLIONS of would be voters who wanted to take part in the 2023 general elections will not be able to do so. Reason: They could not get registered as voters, transfer their voting locations or replace their lost or damaged Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs, as the deadline for doing so lapsed, yesterday.

A host of them besieged Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, registration centres but could not get registered eliciting tales of woe, yesterday.

In many locations, registration officers exploited registrants before listing them.
Pained by the development, former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, regretted that instead of helping to get eligible voters registered INEC staff were more interested in charging money before doing their job.

As calls for further extension of the exercise hit the roof with the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu insisting the exercise has ended, a coalition of lawyers has threatened legal action against INEC over the issue.

Apart from the lawyers, and those who could not get registered, others calling for extension of the exercise include Ohanaeze Ndigbo; Labour Party, LP; African Democratic Congress, ADC; and Association of South East Town Unions, ASETU.

There were massive turnout of registrants in Delta, Rivers, Benue and Bayelsa where some residents defied a heavy downpour to get registered.

Lawyers to sue INEC
A Coalition of Legal Practitioners, weekend, threatened legal action against INEC over the commission’s planned closure of the Continuous Voters Registration, CVR, exercise, nationwide.

The group’s Chairman, Mr Emma. Njoku, while fielding questions from journalists at Nguru Mbaise, argued that some Nigerians that would attain 18 years by August and upward are going to suffer as they will never participate in choosing their leaders.

The group said it has become expedient to remind the electoral empire that their decision to stop registration and issuance of PVC to would-be voters would surely disenfranchise a good number of the electorate.

Why we can’t extend CVR—INEC boss

Reacting to calls for further extension of the registration exercise, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said “the CVR will resume after the 2023 general elections and all those who could not register this time will have the opportunity to do so.”

His words: “The Commission is pleased to see the renewed citizens’ interest in the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise. Unfortunately, the CVR would have to be suspended today 31st July because there is a lot that the Commission is required to do under the electoral legal framework, in relation to voter registration and the process of compiling the register requires ample time accomplish.

Specifically, the Commission is required to:

…Clean-up of the register to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS);

…Consolidate the national register of voters (existing voters and new registrants) and display same on Polling Unit basis for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) across the 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for public scrutiny. This lasts for a period of one week. If, for instance, we eventually harvest an estimated 95 million voters, on the basis of 10 voters per page, the Commission has to print 9,500,000 pages for the display;

…Print millions of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs;

….Ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 General Election;

5. Print the final register of voters in triplicate for the 2023 General Election involving a projected 28,500,000 pages for accreditation and display at 176,846 polling units for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on 25th February 2023 and State elections (Governorship and State Assembly) on 11th March 2023; and

…Make copies of the updated national register of voters available to political parties not later than 30 days to the date fixed for the General Election.

Extend voters registration by one month – Ohanaeze, ASETU, ADC, LP
However, The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Association of South East Town Unions, ASETU, yesterday, called for a one-month extension for more residents to get registered.

They gave this advice in Owerri while reacting to the July 31 deadline for the exercise.

National Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Alex Ogbonnia said: “The facilities that are supposed to be used to register enough people were not there in the South-East. The natural thing to do is to extend it by one month. However, I want to commend the Igbo for turning out largely to register. I want to correct the impression that the South-East is the least registered and that they did not register sufficiently.”

Also Speaking, the National President of the Association of Southeast Town Unions, ASETU, Emeka Diwe, said: “It would not be out of place to extend the voter’s registration by one month and it would not be harmful to INEC. There will be no plus or minus rather it will add to the electoral process, given the fact that there was some kind of disruption, retardation and distractions of the exercise.”

National Vice Chairman South-East of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Chilos Godsent, said: “There is a plot by the INEC, to short-change the South-East. They centralised the registration exercise instead of decentralising process. We are not happy with the process. They should have extended it down to the wards.”

Also, the State Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, LP, Aku Obidimma, said: “We wish it will be extended because by next month there will be people who will attain the age of 18. I want to say this because of these surges you see everywhere are because of Peter Obi, and that is why everybody wants to get his or her PVC.”

INEC staff cash-in on deadline to extort registrants in Lagos

In Lagos, Intending voters went in search of registration centres to get registered.

Some intending registrants had to trek long distances from their abodes. Some were disappointed as staff on duty demanded N5,000 from them before they could get registered.

Some of the centres visited include: Alimosho, Agege, and Igando.
When Vanguard visited one of the centres at Ikotun, Alimosho area of the state, intending registrants complained of long delay as they were left unattended to while only those who could grease the palms of the officials were attended to.

Speaking with Vanguard, Mr. Gregory Okeckukwu, complained bitterly of maginalisation, saying he was being denied registration because of ethnicity.

“Ï got here around 9 am but up- till now, 1pm we are still waiting to be attended to. One of the INEC staff approached me saying if I have N5,000, he will facilitate the registration for me. This is absolutely unacceptable,” Okechukwu lamented.

Also, Mr. Patrick Osagie, lamented that his daughter and her friends were denied registration when they visited Ikotun, yesterday.

Osagie lamented, “So, is it fair that when people go to INEC registration points they are locked out if they bear non-Yoruba names. My daughter and her friends went to Ikotun today (Sunday) and they were demanding N800 from them before they will register them. Is it fair?”

A pregnant lady, Mrs Margaret Anthony, an intending registrant at Agege, who also complained of unnecessary delay, called for extension of the exercise.

“It is absolutely necessary for INEC to extend the date of closure till mid August if they must be fair to all as a lot of qualified and intending registrants could be disenfranchised if the exercise is not extended.”

Sen Abaribe decries exploitation by INEC staff

In like manner, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe representing Abia South decried the exploitative tendencies of some unpatriotic staff of the INEC in Abia State.

His words: “The INEC staff here in the South-East who are also our own brothers and sisters are exploiting everybody.

“I have to pay to INEC to bring the machines to register people. People are paying everyday just to get registered. We keep pushing despite the difficulties,” he said.

Abaribe also strongly condemned the attacks on INEC facilities in South-East saying those behind the acts are undermining the electoral fortunes of the zone.

The former Senate Minority Leader appealed to the people of the South East not to boycott the 2023 elections, arguing that that would only pave the way for the wrong persons to occupy elective positions in the zone.

Teeming registrants besiege Rivers INEC office, beg for extension

Teeming prospecting registrants at the Rivers State INEC office in Port Harcourt called for further extension of the CVR.

At 3.44 pm when Vanguard visited the State Office on Aba Road, the crowd of residents was still surging with many shut out and swarming the commission’s gate as the INEC officials took them in for registration in batches.

Okechukwu Jonathan, one of the prospective registrants still stranded called for further extension of time for the exercise, a position shared by virtually everyone in his shoes.

Carnival in Delta
In Delta, apart from surge of registrants and calls for extension the exercise became a carnival of sorts at the Delta State head office of INEC in Asaba.

Prospective registrants were entertainment with music, provided with chairs and canopies while they waited for their turns.

The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Talent Development, Ogusbaba Akpobome Ogude who spoke to newsmen, said his office partnered with INEC to keep prospective registrants entertained.

The Head of Voter Education and Publicity of INEC in Delta State, Mr Bukola Ojeme who chatted with our Correspondent, said: “We decided to provide to eliminate possible friction between registration officers and prospective registrants.

“The carnival started on Saturday. Since it started, the commission has experienced a smooth exercise unlike in previous days when there used to be altercations.”

Bayelsa, Benue residents defy heavy rains

In Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, as of 6pm yesterday, a crowd of anxious residents were still waiting to be registered.

The turn out across the state, it was learned was due to the consciousness that their PVCs is their only weapon to elect candidate of their choice at the general elections.

“It’s been a wonderful exercise so far in spite of the heavy rainfall being experienced today. I believe some persons may not be able to come out today to register or pick their PVCs because of the inclement weather.

“The political awakening through effective mobilisation no doubt contributed to the upsurge in youths’ participation in the CVR exercise,” said ” Ayibaemi Andy, a resident.

Benue State also recorded massive turnout of residents who defied a heavy down pour to be registered. Many of them could not get listed.

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