By Rabiu Oluwatosin
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is an electoral body established under Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, whose primary function is to organise and regulate elections in Nigeria vis-a-vis other functions such as register political parties, administer the registration of persons qualified to vote and prepare, maintain and review the register of voters for the purpose of any election under the constitution etc as contained in Section 15 Part 1 of the Third Schedule of 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 2 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The registration requires that the two voter cards be obtained by the prospective voter, namely Temporary Voter Card and Permanent Voter Card. The later popularly called the PVC is what is used to vote during the elections. A person can only register once, and registration is done at the ward or LGA where one resides, or works in gainful employment or one’s state of origin. Eligibility to participate in the voting registration process includes, but not limited to, that such person must be a citizen of Nigeria, and must have attained the age of 18 years, on or before the registration day. A person who intends to register as a voter must appear in person at the registration centre as approved by the commission.
Amidst the several advantages of voter registration, the most proficient is that it aids the prevention of multiple voting and bars underage voting. It also aids the evaluation of the number of citizens who participate in the electoral process vis-a-vis the estimated number of citizens in the country.
The news on social media today that INEC will finish formal registration of people for the 2019 elections on August 17, makes it imperative to give an independent assessment and report that will assist in the accomplishment of these sacred duties of INEC.
The performance at the Ojota registration centre in Lagos falls below par. People are made to wait in a long queue for a period of time which often runs into days without success in the registration. A situation where 10 people are registered out of an average 1,000 is not a good record.
The attitude of the registration officer towards the people is not good enough to encourage continuous effort. The people who are desperate are therefore moving to other areas to have their registration carried out in spite of the apparent non-utilisation of the PVC for the purpose of the elections.
The possible reasons for the non-functionality of the registration process are: The attitude of the registration officers; inadequacy of the registration facilities (poor equipment, slow to act equipment); apparent lack of good supervision; apparent lack of good communication and report back system; lack of a conducive environment. For example, at the Ojota LG Secretariat, no seats are provided, and people have to queue under the harsh weather, pregnant women included.
Some of the things that can be done to make the exercise more successful are to work on the factors stated above:
- Provision of a more conducive environment for registration, for example, the University of Lagos registration centre provides seats for students to participate in the registration process, and admits students from different wards or LGAs to obtain their temporary voter card. The process barely takes more than two hours which is a milestone compared to other registration centres.
- Provision of more manpower and efficient registration facilities.
- There should be a monitoring system for all centres to ensure the credibility of the registration process.
- Introduction of online registration. This reduces the stress for both the prospective voter and INEC, as data filled online could be subsequently reviewed by INEC officials, before the release of the Permanent Voter Card.
In sum, there is a perceived notion by most prospective voters that their votes don’t count, so going through such rigour to obtain their voter cards will further enhance this notion. However, if the abovementioned measures can be put in place, people will be more inclined to participate in the forthcoming elections knowing that INEC has their interest at heart.
Miss Rabiu Oluwatosin writes from Ojota, Lagos. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org