NewsReel 17/8/14 - Distribution Of Permanent Voters Card & Continuous Voters Registration Exercises: Intersociety Calls For Mass Participation & Lowering Of Stringent Conditions By INEC

[ Masterweb Reports: Intersociety reports ] - (Democracy & Good Governance: Onitsha Nigeria, August 15th 2014)-“Credibility of the Voters Register for Nigeria or any federating State or LGA thereof is not only a signpost of credible elections, but also a heartbeat of robust Human Development and Human Security direly needed now to wriggle our beloved country out of her present state of social toxemia”- Barr. Chiugo Onyekachi Onwuatuegwu, head of Democracy & Good Governance Program of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law.
 
By the official information available on the official website of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the second phase of distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVRs) and Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) will commence today being August 15th 2014 and on Wednesday August 20th 2014. The PVCs distribution exercise will last for only three days (August 15-17) while the CVR exercise is slated to last for five days (August 20-25) with the two exercises beginning from 8am and ending by 4pm daily. While the PVCs exercise will be conducted in all the polling units in the 12 States affected by the second phase of the exercise, the CVR exercise will take place in the electoral wards/registration areas collation centers across the country. In the case of Anambra State, for instance, the two important exercises will take place in the State’s 4, 608 polling units and 326 electoral wards/collation centers. The 12 States affected by the second phase of the two vital exercises are Anambra, Ebonyi, Delta, Cross River, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Yobe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Sokoto and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
 
A public enlightenment banner/notice being distributed and shared by the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC) reads as follows: “ PUBLIC NOTICE: COLLECTION OF PERMANENT VOTERS CARD. Date: Friday 15th –Sunday 17th August 2014. Venue: All the 4, 608 polling units where the voters registered. Time: 8.00am – 4.00pm daily. Note: The Voters has (have) to appear in person. The PVC cannot be collected by proxy. CONTINOUS VOTERS REGISTRATION (CVR): Date: 20th -25 August 2014. Venue: All the 326 Wards/Registration Areas Collation Centres. Time: 8.00am-4.00pm daily. THOSE ELIGIBLE: * Nigerians and Ndi Anambra who turn 18 years. * Those not registered in the 2011 registration exercise and 2013 Continuous Voters Registration. * Those with incomplete records like missing finger-print, missing pictures, name missing in the register, etc. Each applicant for registration under the CVR system should appear in person at the registration venue with any of the following documents: * birth or baptismal certificate. * National Passport, National Identity Card, or Driver’s License, or any other document that will provide the identity, age and nationality of the applicant.”
 
The importance of the two exercises is numerous to be mentioned. By the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011, the INEC Establishment Act of 2004 and the Electoral Act of the Federation 2010, there are a total of 13, 483 elective public offices in Nigeria, out of which 1, 224 comprising 1, 152 State legislative offices and 72 executive offices belong to the 36 States; 11, 788 comprising LGA chairmanship, deputy chairmanship and councillorship elective offices belong to the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs); and 471 comprising 109 senatorial seats, 360 rep seats and two presidential and deputy presidential seats belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
 
There are also 4, 017 top appointive public offices in the country spread across the executive, legislative and judicial organs mostly found in the Federal and State tiers of government in the country. This brings the total number of the country’s top public appointive and elective offices to about 17, 500. This is clearly captured by the Salaries & Allowances for Top Public Office Holders Act of the Federation 2002 as amended in 2008.  By law, INEC is empowered to conduct elections into 1, 695 elective seats in Nigeria, while the States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs), under staggered legal provisions, are empowered to conduct same into 11, 788 LGA elective seats. For the purpose of the February 2015 general polls, which the two important exercises aim at, elections are going to be held in 1, 685. This is because 10 other gubernatorial and deputy gubernatorial offices have already had their polls conducted under staggered legal provisions occasioned by the Apex Court decision in 2007 (Peter Obi vs INEC & ors). The 10 exclusive gubernatorial polls were held in Edo State (July 14, 2012), Ondo State (October 20, 2012), Anambra State (November 16, 17 and 30, 2013), Ekiti State (June 21, 2014) and Osun State (August 9, 2014).
 
Challenges Before INEC: Borrowing from previous exercises such as the ones conducted in Anambra State in 2013, INEC has mountainous challenges ranging from administrative to personnel and machines. Administratively, the Apex Electoral Commission must lower its stringent conditions imposed on the target audience (registered voters and unregistered eligible voters). For instance, asking those that lost their voters cards to obtain “police extract or court affidavit” or both, etc can be very frustrating and has the capacity of discouraging them from obtaining their legitimate voters cards. Another area is the issue of limiting the CVR exercise to electoral wards/collation centers only.
 
This will deny hundreds of thousands, if not millions of unregistered eligible voters the opportunity of being captured in the exercise under reference owing to far distances and other artificial bottle necks. In Anambra State, for instance, rural dwellers will have to travel about five kilometers or more to locate their wards/collation centers usually located at LGA headquarters or conspicuous community facilities. Even in urban areas like Nsugbe “33” and Iyiowa Odekpe Layout, residents not yet registered as voters will have to travel distance kilometers to the Onitsha Prisons and the Odekpe Primary School respectively so as to be registered.
 
This is totally cumbersome and it has the capacity to deny them their fundamental rights to choose their leaders democratically and participate effectively in public governance and affairs. Also the three days mapped out by the Commission for the PVC exercise is grossly inadequate. The post polling unit continued distribution of PVCs arrangement proposed by the Commission is not enough remedy. The Commission should not only extend the time for the PVCs and CVR exercises but also create more centers across the country for CVR exercise. In the past, such exercises were marred by dearth of INEC personnel and machines. It is hoped that the Commission is adequately prepared for the two important exercises under reference especially as it concerns enough personnel and machines as well accessibility.
 
The issue of “missing names” occasioned by the Commission’s administrative incompetence has become a recurring decimal in the country. INEC’s ICT and pen and paper (POP) data management is still very poor. This has brought about a series of complaints ranging from missing names to in-erasure of pictures and other data of registered voters who successfully completed their “voters’ card transfer”. The watery allegation of double or multiple voter registration leveled against Mr. Willie Obiano, who is now the Governor of Anambra State, is a clear case in point. The failure of INEC in this respect is a clear violation of Section 13 (4) of the Electoral Act of 2010. The supplementary Section requires the “transferring and receiving INEC officials” to ensure that the previous data of a successful voter’s card transferee is clearly deleted from the Commission’s data bank containing the successful applicant’s previous data.
 
Task Before The Mass Public: Talking about the three major categories of “the public”: decision making public, attentive public and mass public”, the greatest beneficiary of the two important exercises is the “mass public, which constitutes over 90% of the “general public”. As such, the duty lies on the decision making public (public governance bodies and policy makers) and attentive public (mass media, CSOs, church leaders, professional bodies, etc) to ensure that the two important exercises are a huge success by maximally benefiting the relevant segment of the mass public”. The concerned segment of the “mass publicincluding artisans, students and traders are, therefore, called upon to come out massively so as to be adequately captured.
 
 Getting registered as a permanent voter is one thing, voting on Election Day is another. It is shocking to observe that in the past five governorship polls held between 2012 and 2014 in Nigeria, the total number of those that voted compared to the number of registered voters is not up to 60% of the registered voters. Anambra State has the lowest voter turnout in the sa
 
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