By Nathaniel Gana
21st June 2021
Media professionals have resolved to support the Independent National Electoral Commission in its bid to resume the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise on 28th June. They also commended the Commission for successfully converting Voting Points and Voting Settlements to polling units, affirming that the development would improve the country’s electoral system.
President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo, made the pledge today, during a consultative meeting between the Commission and the Media at the INEC Headquarters in Abuja.
The Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu had, in his remarks, appealed to the media to help create awareness about the CVR, saying that the success of the proposed exercise would largely depend on citizens’ knowledge of it. His words: “We intend to undertake the CVR exercise for at least one year. The success of the exercise depends, to a considerable extent, on citizens’ awareness through voter education. There will be new registrants, requests for intra-State and inter-State transfers as well as the replacement of voters’ cards as provided by law.
He added: “Furthermore, with the relocation of voting points to underserved areas as autonomous polling units, there is a need for massive publicity so that citizens are familiar with their voting locations well ahead of all forthcoming elections. We appeal for your partnership to achieve this goal”.
The INEC Chairman further explained that the success recently recorded by the Commission in breaking the 25-year-old jinx of converting Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements to polling units, thereby expanding voters’ access to polling units, has prepared the ground for the Commission to embark on the registration of eligible Nigerians as voters.
He said the introduction of the online registration portal would ease the burden of long queues at registration centres on eligible Nigerians. His words: “In the next one week, i.e., Monday 28th June 2021, the Commission will resume the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) nationwide. In doing so, the Commission is introducing a portal to enable eligible Nigerians to commence registration as voters online before completing the exercise physically at designated centres nationwide”.
He continued, “this is the first time a major exercise of this nature is handled partially online, consistent with the Commission’s commitment to continue to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process in Nigeria. Just like the expansion of voter access to Polling Units, the Commission appeals to the media for support so that this novel idea will also be successful.”
Responding, Comrade Isiguzo commended the Commission for implementing some of the suggestions made by media executives at previous engagements. He said: “when the electoral body and the media unite, clearly, there will be fertile grounds for democracy to thrive. I am happy that today one of the key issues that we discussed during our last meeting has materialized, and that has to do with creating or expanding voter access to polling units. And as we’ve heard from the honourable Chairman, a feat that has been lacking for 25 years has just been achieved. We are so happy, and obviously, we are part of the success story”.
Also commending the Commission for introducing the online registration portal, the NUJ President called for the deployment of more technology in the electoral process. According to him, “the deepening of our democratic gains through technology will drastically reduce some of the challenges we face as a country.”
He said: “I am happy that the issue of online involvement in electoral matters featured the last time. I’m also happy that today, in line with global reality, the INEC has welcomed it. The process of digitizing our electoral system has just started, and it is quite commendable. I believe that by the time this process is effectively deepened, such issues, vices that have remained a major challenge to the delivery of credible elections, would have given way because, by the time these activities take place online, we would have substantially addressed our problems”.
Comrade Isiguzo continued: “most of the key issues that continue to plague us as a people have their roots in the electoral process. Once we get the electoral process right, we would have appreciably addressed the major issues confronting us as a people. By the time electoral actors embrace the reality that if the people don’t vote for you, you lose elections, of course, they will begin to pander to the wishes of the people.
‘’Because of this impression that they can always buy their way through, that is why they don’t care most of the time. But I’m happy that things are getting a lot better because of the leadership we’ve had in INEC for a while. I believe that we will also use the opportunity of the off-season elections that are coming up in Ekiti and Osun to cement further the progress we have had in the electoral process.
“As usual, we want to also assure you of our commitment and our support at all times. We have this belief that we don’t have any other country we can call our own. Nigeria is the only country we have. Therefore, it becomes an onerous responsibility reposed in us to ensure that we help build the country of our dreams. We will not continue to throw stones and apportion blames. It is also incumbent on us to come up with workable solutions. At all times, the present crop of media professionals I can assure you are available to give you the necessary support”, the NUJ president assured.