The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday gave reasons why it could not commence the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in the first quarter of 2021 which ended Wednesday as earlier promised.
The commission also announced that the nationwide CVR exercise would commence on June 28, 2021, and would be carried out continuously for over a year until the third quarter or 2022.
Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, who made the disclosures at a press conference in Abuja, said the first reason the exercise could not start as scheduled was the establishment of new systems that would ensure safer CVR in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To achieve this, Yakubu said the commission is building a new online registration portal that would enable new registrants to commence registration online and subsequently complete the capture of their biometric data at designated registration centres.
“This is designed to reduce crowding. Through the online portal, they can schedule their visits to the registration centres to suit their convenience. Above all, a CVR Locator is integrated into the new portal which will enable online registrants to locate the nearest registration centre available to them to complete their registration,” Yakubu said.
“Previously, registered voters who wished to transfer their voting locations apply for replacement of their PVCs or correct their personal information had to appear physically at the registration centres. The development of this portal, which is being done in-house by our engineers, has taken a little more time to complete than the commission anticipated,” he explained.
The chairman said the second reason the exercise could not hold in the first quarter was the commission’s determination to expand voter access to Polling Units as recent stakeholder engagements demonstrated that the existing Polling Units are inadequate. He said the Commission needs more time to complete the exercise so that the new Polling Units will be available for registrants to choose during the CVR.
Yakubu said another reason was the introduction of new voter registration equipment and technology via migration to the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), which is based on an Android tablet. The procurement of the new devices, the modification of the registration software to make it compatible with the Android Operating System, as well as integrating these with the online registration portal require a little more time.
“The present generation of voter registration equipment, which the Commission introduced in 2011, is the Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM). This is based on a laptop and a series of peripherals connected to it. In addition, it includes large power-packs to power the laptops in the field.
“While the DDCMs have served the Commission well over the last 10 years, we believe that there are now more compact registration devices that will better serve Nigerians during the CVR exercise,” he noted.
Yakubu, while urging all intending registrants, especially those that have turned 18 recently, to turn out and register when the exercise would begin, said the registration is meant only for:
“All Nigerians who are 18 years of age and have never been registered to vote. Any registered voter who has had any issue during accreditation at previous elections so that the Commission can rectify the problem.
“All registered voters who wish to transfer their voting locations from the present one to another; All registered voters who have lost their PVCs or whose PVCs have been defaced or damaged; and All registered voters who wish to correct their information such as names, dates of birth etc.”
The INEC chairman, however, clarified that the National Identification Number (NIN) would not be made compulsory for the voter registration as it is only one of the means of identification provided for under Section 10 subsection 2 of the Electoral Act as birth certificates, driver’s licence or any other document that will prove the identity age and nationality of the applicant.
Yakubu said while 14.2 million voters were registered during the 2017-2018 CVR, the Commission is projecting to register between 16 million and 20 million voters in the 2021-2022 exercise.
He assured that the Commission would make the process safer for voters and for its own officials, hence it has taken time to design, develop and deploy the online registration portal so that people do not have to crowd around the polling units during the registration.
He said the Commission has added 1,000 more registration centres to the 1,446 used in the previous exercise, bringing the number to 2,500 so as to reach more Nigerians.
While responding to a question on what the Commission was doing over the alleged double registration by the governor of Kogi State, the INEC chairman said, “In the case of the specific name, you mentioned, you know, the specific reason while the Commission could not have proceeded and you know, when this question will become relevant maybe after the protection that that person receives has been removed constitutionally. I think I’ve answered the questions as best as I can.”