As speculations begin permutations and plots ahead of the 2023 general elections and other elections in states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is also not resting on its oars, as it is working to validate its national register, include more eligible voters and expand voters’ access to polling units.
Thus, the Commission, on Monday this week, began the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise across Nigeria.
The continuous voter registration exercise is done online. Those taking part in the exercise include Nigerians who have just attained the age of 18 and have never been registered to vote; any registered voter who experienced some difficulties during accreditation in the previous elections; registered voters who wish to change their voting locations and those whose Permanent Voter’s Cards are damaged, lost or defaced.
Others are those who wish to correct information such as names, date of birth and others in their cards; those who recently become Nigerian citizens or those who newly relocate to Nigeria and do not get PVC before. According to INEC, the online registration is meant to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with the COVID-19 pandemic protocols.
The online registration, which started on Monday, will last for three weeks. It will enable people fill in their data and upload their passport photograph online. The second phase is biometric data capturing in INEC offices in all the local government areas. INEC will give a date online when those concerned will go to INEC office of their local government area for data capturing.
The essence is to cross check and confirm that the person that registered online is the person. INEC will start issuing temporary voter card to those who registered from July 19, 2021. INEC has no accredited online registration centre. Therefore, Ndi Anambra should beware of fraudster who might make such claims. Anyone who has access to internet in their smart phone or laptop can do the online registration by themselves.
Political parties, traditional rulers, religious bodies, NGOs, market leaders and all political appointees should sensitize, educate and encourage their people to take part in the continuous voter registration exercise.
There is no doubt that the exercise is a good development in the right direction. The world is going digital and as such INEC is taking advantage of digitalization and social media to register more people, especially as it could be done on our android phones. Many organizations are already using online media for their various businesses and are also doing well; hence, INEC should be commended for following suit.
Furthermore, online registration reduces the number of staff INEC need to coordinate physical registration and the time voters need to register too, aside from reducing cost and other logistics that are expended on registration. The innovation also helps remove the various bottlenecks created by INEC bureaucracy and the frustration for an average voter, while undertaking physical registration.
Again, sometime ago, INEC scrutinized its register to remove ghost names and under-aged voters. With the online registration, the cleansing would be easier and faster and with fewer challenges.
It must be understood that elections are about voters having the opportunity to register in the first instance, having the opportunity for their names to appear in the register and on the Election Day, and make them spend less time in their various voting units to cast their votes. Hence, INEC should make life easier for the electorate by making them register online at no cost attached.
INEC is called upon to think of ways Nigerians in the Diaspora could be allowed to participate in the electoral system, especially now that it is going online. Drawing an inference from the ATM card, INEC should make casting votes in such a way that one can pull his/her PVC and connect to anywhere in the country to cast his/her vote, so long as the person is registered to vote.
WRITTEN BY OBINNA IKWUETO