CEM REPORT | The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reopen the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), especially for Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online but could not complete the process at a physical centre.
The advocacy group made the call via a letter where it appealed to the electoral body to act within seven days of the letter dated August 13, 2022, or SERAP and the affected Nigerians shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
SERAP noted 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.
“Closing the gates on eligible Nigerians and denying them the time and opportunity to complete their registration cannot preserve trust in the electoral process.
“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, deny them a voice in the 2023 elections, and lead to disparate and unfair treatment of these voters.”
SERAP in a statement on its website recalled that of the 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 32.8% representing 3,444,378 completed the process at a physical centre.
The advocacy group also urged the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to immediately give 7 million Nigerians who have carried out their voter registration online the time and opportunity to complete the process, so that they can obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs), and exercise their right to vote, failing which they would take legal action.
The letter from SERAP partly reads, “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.
“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.
“Any proffered justifications of saving time and cost are therefore wholly insufficient. 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.
“By refusing the over seven million Nigerians the opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs, INEC has unfairly, unreasonably, and unjustifiably denied them the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner as to the reasons for not completing their registration.
“Allowing eligible Nigerians to complete their registration would improve citizens’ participation in the electoral process, and public confidence in the electoral system, as well as the ability of INEC to discharge its constitutional and statutory responsibility fairly, justly, and reasonably.
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
“According to our information, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), recently disclosed that over seven million Nigerians who carried out their voter pre-registration online could not complete the process at physical centres.
“According to a report released by INEC, out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 Nigerians representing 32.8 percent, completed the process at a physical centre. 7,043,594 Nigerians carried out their pre-registration but are yet to complete the process at a physical centre.
“This represents over 67 percent of those who began their registration process online.
“According to INEC, a total of 12,298,944 Nigerians completed their voter registration; 8,854,566 of which were persons who did their registration entirely at a physical centre
“The over seven million Nigerians have already completed their registration online, that is, via the INEC online portal by providing their biodata and required documents.