Technocrat Media, Lagos
Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says no eligible Nigerian would be left of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
Civil Society organisations – PROMAD Foundation; Speak Out Africa Initiative; Civily; YVote Naija; Yiaga Africa; Gender Mobile Initiative, and the Policy Shapers, had called on INEC to extend the CVR exercise.
He affirmed that the Commission will do whatever it takes to ensure that all eligible Nigerians willing to register as voters in the current Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise get the opportunity to do so.
Mr Yakubu spoke last night at a pre-event dinner organized by the European Union (EU), where Nigeria’s music stars featured in the Youth Vote Count 2.0 mega-concert holding today at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos had the opportunity to interact with officials of the Commission.
The INEC Chairman also the Commission is not preventing any registrant from a particular section of the country from registering in the current exercise.
Responding to calls for an extension of the CVR due to the surge in the number of young people trooping the Commission’s offices across the country to register, the INEC boss said: “We are concerned like all Nigerians. We are appreciative of the fact that young people and Nigerians generally are trooping out in large numbers to register.
“For us, it’s a measure of confidence that people have in the system and that is why they are coming out to register. We’ll never let the young people of Nigeria down. Whatever it takes, we will ensure that those who are seeking to register to have the opportunity to do so.
“Yesterday (Thursday) in Abuja, we invited all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) nationwide and we held a discussion on what we can do to ensure that no Nigerian is left out in the current voter registration exercise. What we identified immediately is that we need additional equipment, and we need to create additional registration centers.
“So, in addition to what we did earlier, the commission has approved 209 additional machines to be deployed to ease the pressure nationwide. And we identified three areas of pressure based on the discussion we had: the entire southeast region; the big apple – Lagos, and Kano. There is also pressure coming from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We’ll continue to respond to the pressure.
“For the purpose of this concert, the Commission deployed 30 additional machines to Lagos, which they used for the CVR exercise since Monday (6th June). These machines are not going back to Abuja. They will remain in Lagos to respond to the pressure.”
The chairman urged the music stars to take advantage of their large followership to encourage young people to register, collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), and vote on election day.
“There are a number of things I would like you to please the bear in mind. Messaging is very important, and you are the masters and mistresses of messaging. When you say one thing, a million people will listen to you. But I would have to say the same thing a thousand times before I get 10 people to listen to me.
“There are three messages I want you to emphasise: encourage young people to register, but that is only the first step. The second step is that, when they register, they have to collect their PVCs, because registering is one thing, collecting the PVC is another. You can’t go to the polling unit on election day and say – here I come INEC, I’ve registered. You won’t vote until you’re in possession of your PVC. Then, they should use the PVCs, come out and vote on election day. The message consistently is to vote, not fight. Register, collect your PVCs, and vote. They have a friend in INEC”.
He also stated that the PVCs don’t expire as there is no expiry date on the cards being issued by INEC.
On the fears being expressed in certain quarters that elections could be rigged, the INEC Chairman said the Commission would do everything in its power to protect the sanctity of the ballot.
He said: “We have been hearing many stories about ‘scientific rigging’ or ‘photochromic ballot papers’ where, according to them, when you thumbprint for a party of your choice, your vote will move to another political party on the ballot paper as it drops inside the ballot box.
“The best way to protect the sanctity of the ballot is what happens at the polling unit. There are no collation centers where ballot boxes are taken to. The ballot boxes are emptied, sorted out, the votes are counted, recorded on a result sheet, and then uploaded to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV)
“And I’ll like to advise all of you to register on the IReV portal (https://www.inecelectionresults.ng). On election day, when voting ends at the polling unit, the results are immediately uploaded to the portal once the processes are completed. We are the first and so far, the only election management body in Africa that does so. We started it in August 2010 with the Nasarawa State Constituency bye-election. So, it is possible for you to see the result of your polling unit on election day. And since we started, I keep asking: is there any discrepancy between the result uploaded to the IReV and the results given to polling agents at the polling units? I haven’t heard of any. So, be rest assured that we will protect the sanctity of the ballot, first at the most important level, which is the polling unit, and subsequently the results that are collated at the different levels.”
He added: “INEC will do whatever it takes to ensure that Nigerians are able to register, vote and we’ll protect the votes cast by Nigerians. INEC is not a political party. The choice of who becomes whatever in Nigeria democratically lies in the hands of Nigerians. Our responsibility is to protect the voter.”
#YouthVoteCountNG is an initiative of the European Union in collaboration with INEC and YIAGA Africa.
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