The Continuous Voter Registration exercise by INEC eventually came to a close on July 31st, 2022 with a vast majority of Nigerians, mostly from across the south and north central, being unable to register for their PVC due to deliberate measures by INEC to create an advantage for a particular interest and region, which has left a large population across the south and the north central without a PVC to exercise their civic responsibility of electing their leaders.
INEC, with the humongous funds budgeted for its operation, has failed in its responsibility to give credibility to our electoral process. How can we have a credible, acceptable election when more than half of the population of our citizens of voting age who are desirous of voting cannot have the opportunity to register and vote due to deliberate strategies and instrumentation designed by INEC to prevent this population from registering?
This strategy employed by INEC is a violation of eligible Nigerians’ rights to participate freely in their own government. It is an abridgement of the constitutional and international human rights of eligible voters. The execution of INEC mandates must be impartial, just, and non-discriminatory. It must not only act independently and impartially when carrying out its statutory and constitutional duties, but it must also be perceived in such a manner
The right of the people to elect their leaders is one of their most sacred liberties. The commission has a constitutional and statutory duty to ensure that all eligible voters effectively exercise their right to participate in their own government by electing representatives at all levels, but it has fallen short of that duty, depriving many Nigerians who want to cast ballots in the 2023 general elections of the chance to do so.
INEC’s failure to provide adequate time and equal opportunity for eligible voters across the country to register and participate in the 2023 general elections amounts to an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, as well as violates other human rights.
Nigerians are already expressing doubt about the capacity of INEC to conduct credible and impartial elections come 2023, going by the manner in which they have shut a large number of eligible voters from participating in the process by deliberately creating a system that makes it cumbersome for eligible voters in the south and north-central, including the FCT, to register, while it created a process that enhanced smooth, fast, and massive registration across the northwest that is ravaged by terrorism and banditry.
INEC deliberately created a few registration centres across the south, supplied a few machines, and engaged a few staff to attend to the thousands of people who thronged these registration centres daily to register, thereby making the process extremely slow and cumbersome across these centres.
There is no convincing explanation as to why the north-west, with the high level of insecurity ravaging the region, should record such a high number of voters. That is more than twice the combined total of registered voters in the south-east and north-central. INEC should explain to Nigerians why PVC registration was so successful in the north-west; otherwise, Nigerians will suspect INEC of having deliberately employed strategies to give a specific region an advantage to enhance a predetermined outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
Creating an opportunity for eligible voters across the country to register with ease and participate freely in an election is essential for building public confidence in the electoral process and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 general elections. In a situation where Nigerians have doubts about the independence and impartiality of INEC, they are more likely to have less confidence in the electoral process, thereby undermining democracy.
Under the current leadership, INEC has abandoned its duty of voter education, enlightenment, and sensitization to patriotic Nigerians. INEC, which ought to constantly engage in massive sensitization of the populace through radio, TV programs, jingles, and other traditional means of communication, deliberately went quiet or did too little in that regard. It is the Nigerian youths who have taken these tasks upon themselves to enlighten the populace about their right to register and vote. The deliberate failure of INEC to carry out a sustained, massive, voter enlightenment campaign suits an agenda that seeks to disenfranchise Nigerians who are much more than ever determined to root out bad leaders from power.
I urge civil society organizations and all supporters of democracy to speak out against INEC’s covert plans to undermine Nigerian democracy by creating a highly sectional advantage for one region over others.