In a bid to address the cumbersome process of voter registration at the various centres in Nigeria ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said part of the registration exercise will be done online while biometric data capturing would take place at designated centres.
The new initiative is expected to reduce overcrowding at the registration centres.
The INEC National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, said this during a chat with The PUNCH on Monday, while reacting to questions on the modalities for voter registration.
He said, “We won’t require everyone to go to registration centres to go register. The new registrants will start their registration online and only go to the registration centres for the purpose of capturing fingerprints and faces. So, that lessens the period that people will spend at registration centres.
“It is only those who cannot do the online registration or don’t have the capacity to do so, that will go to the polling unit to complete the entire process but for those who are Internet savvy and have computers will start registration online and go to the registration centres for their fingerprint and face capturing.”
INEC had in November 2020, promised that the continuous voter registration, which had been suspended since August 2018, would commence within the first quarter of 2021. INEC has not registered any Nigerian in the last 30 months.
However, with the first quarter of 2021 coming to an end, the registration exercise has yet to begin, meaning that INEC may not commence registration soon.
Reacting, however, Okoye said the delay was largely caused by the consultations over the creation of new polling units.
The INEC commissioner noted that Nigeria’s 119,973 polling units established in 1996 had become grossly inadequate hence the creation of over 57,000 voting points in the last elections. He noted that there was a need to convert some of the voting points to full polling units to ease the process of voting.
Okoye noted that once this was done, the continuous voter registration would be able to take off.
He said, “What we have done as a commission is to prioritise some of the cogent issues that we need to address. What we have decided is that expansion of access to polling units is very urgent and will fundamentally affect the issue of continuous voter registration.
“We have pointed out that we have a total of 119, 973 polling units and these polling units were established in 1996, that is almost 25 years ago. As of the 2019 election, we had a total of 84, 040, 80 registered voters. But in 25 years, while the number of registered voters kept increasing, the polling units available to voters remained static.
“So, what we are doing is to expand access to the polling units, remove some of the voting points available as of today, and move them to the people that need them.”
He said the plan of the electoral umpire was to convert some voting points to full polling units
Okoye added, “We are almost concluding with consultations and when we are done in the next week or two, we will move to the various places and begin the implementation.
“We will consult community leaders on the best places to put these polling units. The polling units that are in the houses of political chieftains that is in shrines or in the forests will be moved to schools or other public places.”
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When asked if INEC would have enough time to register new persons and address other related issues, Okoye said a new enrolment device would be introduced which would make the process more seamless.
He said the number of voters will be expected to increase from 84 million to 100 million.
“With the new enrolment device, we want to deploy and the number of people, we can conclude this process within a period of one year. I can’t see what will take us more than a year to register less than 20 million voters,” he said.
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