The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman has been requested by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to reopen voter registration so that the seven million Nigerians who started the process online can finish it.
NewsReport that in a letter dated August 13, 2022 and signed by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP issued the demand and threatened to take the commission to court if it wasn’t complied with within seven days.
The civil society organisation maintained that INEC must ensure the prospective voters who have carried out their voter registration online are given time and opportunity to complete the process so that they can obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs), and exercise their right to vote.
INEC recently disclosed that out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 completed the process at a physical centre. This represents just 32.8 percent of completed online registration.
SERAP also insisted that the right to vote is not merely the right to cast a ballot but also the right to be given the time and opportunity to complete the registration process so that the right can be meaningfully and effectively exercised.
It further stated that the act of closing the gates on eligible Nigerians and denying them the time and opportunity to complete their registration cannot preserve trust in the electoral process.
The organisation also added that denying a significant number of eligible voters the time and opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs would impair the right to vote of those affected and that it will deny them a voice in the 2023 elections, and lead to disparate and unfair treatment of these voters.
SERAP also said, “The failure of the applicants to complete their registration may be due to factors entirely outside of their control, especially given the well-documented challenges faced by many Nigerians at registration centres across the country.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP and the affected Nigerians shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
“Unless they are given a reasonable time and opportunity to complete the registration process, and to obtain their voter cards, these eligible Nigerians will not be able to vote in the 2023 general elections.
“If citizens’ chance to vote is denied, that would amount to a violation of their fundamental right to vote, just as it would be if they were prevented from casting any vote at all.”
SERAP also stressed that the alleged failure of the applicants to complete their registration at INEC designated centres is not sufficiently weighty to justify their exclusion from the 2023 general elections.
It further claimed that any proffered justifications of saving time and cost are therefore wholly insufficient and that administrative convenience is simply not a compelling justification in light of the fundamental nature of the right to vote.
“This severe vote deprivation cannot be justified by any perceived considerations of saving time, especially because Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that ‘the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters shall not stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act.’
“Providing a fresh opportunity for the over seven million Nigerians to complete their registration would promote and preserve the right to vote, and ensure that legal and eligible voters are not inadvertently and unjustifiably turned away from exercising their fundamental right to vote,” the organisation stated.