Politics

Reps push for fresh voters’ registration: How feasible?

PHILIP NYAM reports on the recent resolution of the House of Representatives, calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to embark on massive voters’ registration ahead of the 2023 general election

 

With less than 12 months to the next general election, the House of Representatives has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to urgently deploy physical enumerators and other assistance to conduct a fresh voters registration across all the 360 federal constituencies in the country.

 

This is expected because as the elections draw nearer, politicians count more on their supporters, who have voters’ cards.

The call by the lower chamber came at a time, electorate in some parts of the country have lost their voter cards due to activities of insurgents and other criminal elements who have been visiting mayhem and violence on innocent Nigerians. Some communities in the North-West, North- East and North Central have been deserted as a result of insecurity.

 

Consequently, it was not surprising that the lower legislative chamber has mandated its committee on electoral matters to ensure compliance with the directive. Almost every member on the floor on that day wanted to speak on the motion, sponsored by Hon. Abubakar Makki Yalleman (APC, Jigawa).

The motion was unanimously passed after a lengthy deliberation. Presenting the motion, Hon. Yalleman noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was established to, among other things, organise elections in Nigeria as well as put all necessary processes in place for the successful conduct of elections in Nigeria.

He said, INEC, in carrying out one of its constitutional duties, has put in place the machinery for the virtual Continuous Voters Registration (CVR), which has been ongoing.

He, however expressed concern that Mallam Madori/Kaugama federal constituency in Jigawa State, which he represents and many other federal constituencies have been placed at a disadvantaged position due to non-availability of registration centers and officials, inadequate power supply, insufficient operational tools and equipment as well as inadequate enlightenment programmes, the effect of which are low figures recorded within the constituencies.

Yalleman said he was worried that if the voters’ registration exercise is concluded without addressing the above-mentioned challenges, thousands of potential voters in Nigeria will be disenfranchised during the forthcoming elections.

According to him, given current realities in his constituency, INEC may need to engage in both physical and virtual processes by introducing physical enumerators to make up for the lapses in the online registration exercise.

The lawmaker consequently prayed the House to immediately direct electoral commission to deploy the required staff and commence work on the motion. He also asked that the House committee on electoral matters be mandated to ensure that the electoral umpire adhere strictly to the resolution of the legislators.

Supporting the motion, chairman of the House committee on Navy, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau) commended the    spirit of the motion, saying it seeks to ensure that the rights of Nigerians, especially in rural areas to vote and be voted for are not disenfranchised.

He called for the deployment of physical enumerators to fill the gap put in place by the lack of availability of adequate technology for voters’ registration. Speaking in the same vein, the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno) stated that the motion seeks to adequately deal with the insufficiency of communication and technology reach.

He stressed the need for physical enumerators of INEC in the north eastern part of Nigeria, where Boko Haram insurgents have destroyed numerous communication masts. In his intervention, Hon. An-  iekan Umanah (PDP, Akwa Ibom) called on INEC to also ensure adequate equipment and devices are deployed to staff to ensure their work is carried out smoothly.

Similarly, Hon. Miriam Onuoha (APC, Imo) called on INEC to embark on a more robust advocacy in new polling units to ensure the voters’ registration process is seamless and easy to implement. Introducing another perspective, Hon. Ben Igbakpa (PDP, Delta) called on INEC to decentralise the voter’s registration process and make it easier for voters to register, this he stated will ensure voters’ apathy is discouraged.

Hon. Ihama Omoregie (PDP, Edo) proposed an amendment to ensure INEC sites voting points in safer locations for more secure voters’ exercise.

Also speaking on the motion, HonMela Dan-Zaria (APC, Gombe) called for more voter education during the deployment and to ensure voter’s rights are preserved. Supporting the position, Hon. Shehu Babale also called for proper sensitisation and education of voters. He further called for the deployment of physical enumerators to guide the voters on the process of voting.

Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Hon. Beni Lar (PDP, Plateau) stressed the importance of the right to vote and be voted for and how nothing should deny such rights. She decried the way the good notion of the online voting system has gone wrong due to poor telecommunication system.

This, she stated, has made a lot of Nigerians unable to carry out their voting rights. She proposed an amendment that INEC should extend the time limit for voter registration. She further called on INEC not to close down voting points with low turnouts, adding that the commission should report to the relevant House committees on a monthly basis on the line of progress for the registration processes.

Also speaking in favour of the motion, House leader, Hon. Alhassan Ado- Doguwa (APC, Kano) expressed joy at the wide coverage of members from all parts of Nigeria that contributed to the debate and called on INEC to do the needful to ensure that the voting rights of Nigerians are not frustrated as the motion had spoken to the concerns of voters nationwide, as well as identified deficiencies in the registration process.

He further proposed an amendment to ensure that the prayer and effects of the motion reflect all constituencies of Nigeria and not just the constituency of the mover of the motion.

Hon. Victor Kolade Akinjo (PDP, Ondo) also proposed an amendment, calling on INEC to ensure that newly registered voters are duly provided with their voter’s cards.

Making his contribution, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga (PDP, Ebonyi) proposed an amendment, calling on INEC to deploy adequate registration machines to aid the registration in all constituencies nationwide.

Against the backdrop of the contributions, the motion was voted on and adopted as amended.

 

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