Senate advocates decentralization of continuous voter registration

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Nigeria's Senate

The Nigerian senate has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to decentralize the continuous voter registration exercise on ward basis following what it described as poor handling of the exercise by INEC officials.

It also urged INEC to undertake the exercise on a continuing and permanent basis in the respective polling units until all prospective registrants are registered.

The Senate, in its resolutions which were sequel to a motion, “The Continued Voters Registration Exercise, Matters Arising”, sponsored by Senator Godswill Akpabio, mandated its Committee on INEC to monitor the exercise and report progress and challenges periodically to the red chamber.

Senator Akpabio, while leading debate on the motion, noted that INEC commenced a nationwide Continued Voters’ Registration exercise on April 12 in all its offices in the 774 local government areas throughout the federation instead of ward level.

He noted that “the exercise is meant for Nigerians who attained 18 years between the last exercises to this day, those who were not previously registered but whose names cannot be found in the register of voters and those whose cards are lost or damaged”.

According to him, “the exercise has been faced with several challenges across the country which includes malfunctioning of the direct data capture machines, non-availability of the machines in some local government areas; slowness of the machine, inadequate manpower and inaccessibility of registration centres from prospective registrants, especially those residing in the rural areas”.

Senator Akpabio who is the minority leader, said the challenges are worse in states like Akwa Ibom, Anambra and Osun where only 30 voters are registered per day in each local government with over 20 wards.

He noted that governorship election would hold in Osun State in June 2018 and warned that these challenges of the registration if not tackled would jeopardise or make the election less credible.

“The inability of the federal government to effectively address the challenges of the registration exercise can lead to disenfranchisement of voters which could result in serious voters’ apathy which may render the 2019 general election unacceptable, not credible and undemocratic,” Senator Akpabio cautioned.

Also contributing, Senator Adeola Solomon Olamilekan condemned the ongoing voters’ registration exercise, which he described as a ‘sham’, pointing out that the INEC seemed not to be prepared and ready for the exercise.

Senator Olamilekan pointed out that, there were not more than three direct data capture machines in all the INEC offices at local government headquarters across the country, which often packed up after about two hours of being used for the exercise.

He stressed the need to decentralise the exercise with more machines in all designated polling units nationwide instead of INEC offices for successful exercise.

President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki in his remarks, mandated the Senate Committee on INEC to take note of all resolutions and act accordingly.