The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has set July 31, 2022 as a new deadline for the suspension of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, exercise.
INEC had earlier announced an indefinite extension of the CVR following the expiration of its June 30, 2022 deadline and appeals by the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters.
The commission initially dismissed the idea of a prolonged extension of up to 30 days, despite its resolve to continue to provide electoral services to Nigerians and register all eligible voters.
However, on Friday, the commission, in a statement by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said it met in an extraordinary session on Friday and took a decision to extend the CVR for another two weeks until Sunday 31st July 2022, thereby bringing the total duration of the extension to 31 days.
According to the statement, INEC’s decision “followed the judgement delivered by the Federal High Court on Wednesday 13th July 2022 in which it dismissed the suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which is seeking an extension of the exercise beyond 30th June 2022.”
It noted that “The Court has affirmed that INEC is at liberty to appoint a date of its choice to suspend the CVR, provided it is not later than 90 days before the date fixed for the General Election as provided in Sec. 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“In compliance with the interim injunction of the Court pending the determination of the substantive suit, and in order to enable more Nigerians to register, the Commission continued with the CVR beyond 30th June 2022. For this reason, the CVR has already been extended beyond 30th June 2022 for a period of 15 days.”
INEC also said with the judgement of the Federal High Court, all legal encumbrances have now been removed, paving way for the two week extension.
“The CVR is hereby extended for another two weeks until Sunday 31st July 2022, thereby bringing the total duration of the extension to 31 days (1st – 31st July 2022).
“The exercise has also been extended to eight hours daily from 9.00am – 5.00pm instead of the current duration of six hours (9.00am – 3.00pm) daily; and the exercise is also extended to include weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) as against only weekdays,” the statement said.
While acknowledging that the timeframe may be tight for many prospective registrants, the commission noted that there is a lot that it is required to do under the electoral legal framework in relation to voter registration and compilation of the register that will require time to accomplish.
It further stated that during this time, it is required to clean-up the register to remove multiple registrants using the Automated Biometric Identification System, ABIS; consolidate the national register of voters, existing voters and new registrants, and display same on Polling Unit basis for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas, Wards, across the 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for public scrutiny.
It added that this exercise lasts for a period of one week while stating that on the basis of a new projection of 95 million voters, on the basis of 10 voters per page, the Commission has to print 9,500,000 pages for the display
Other assignments INEC is scheduled to carry out include to “Print millions of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs; Ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 General Election
“Print the final register of voters in triplicate for the 2023 General Election involving a projected 28,500,000 pages for accreditation and display at 176,846 polling units for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on 25th February 2023 and State elections (Governorship and State Assembly) on 11th March 2023; and
“Make copies of the updated national register of voters available to political parties not later than 30 days to the date fixed for the General Election.”
The commission appealed for the patience and understanding of all Nigerians as it concludes the exercise which will resume after the 2023 general election.
On its observations about the extended period of registration, it said “We observed that following the continuation of the exercise beyond 30th June 2022, many of the registration centres recorded low turnout of prospective registrants. With this two-week extension, we appeal to eligible citizens not to wait until the last few days before they inundate the centres again to register.
“We appreciate the interest of Nigerians to register and participate in the electoral process and once again reiterate our commitment to credible and transparent elections. This can only be achieved with the support and cooperation of all Nigerians.”