By Emmanuel Adeleke
The House of Representatives has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the June 30 deadline for voter registration by 60 days, to enable more eligible Nigerians to register, get their Permanent Voter Card (PVC) and participate in the 2023 general elections.
A lawmaker from Abia State, Benjamin Kalu, moved the motion at Wednesday’s plenary.
The lawmaker, in the motion, explained that the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration exercise by INEC is scheduled to end on June 30, stressing that the decision to suspend the exercise is in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, which requires the commission to suspend voter registration at least 60 days before an election.
Kalu recalled that in April 2022, INEC declared that about 42 per cent of the voter registrations recorded since the commencement of CVR on June 28, 2021, were invalid, with about 20 million unclaimed PVCs.
He said: “The House is cognizant of the large numbers of unregistered eligible voters willing to be registered as evidenced by crowds seen at various registration centres resulting in congestion.
“The House is concerned about reports of shortages of voter registration machines, inadequate manpower and personnel at registration centres, which may lead to frustrations among prospective registrants and in some cases, unrest at some registration centres.
“The House is also aware of calls from concerned citizens and civil societies urging INEC to extend the voters’ registration deadline to accommodate eligible voters desiring to register for their Permanent Voters Cards.”
Kalu stated that the right to vote is critically important to the health and legitimacy of democracy, as well as electoral integrity.
“If nothing is done to improve the shortage of voter registration equipment and extend the deadline for voter registration, millions of Nigerians will be disenfranchised, thus jeopardising the integrity of the 2023 general elections,” he added.
After the motion, the House mandated its Committee on Electoral Matters to engage with INEC to “examine and proffer solutions to the shortage of registration machines and manpower.”
The engagement is to also see to the deployment of additional 30 voter registration machines in each of the 774 local government areas, training and deployment of ad hoc staff to improve the shortage of manpower at registration centres and provide security for the ad hoc staff.
The committee is to report back within two weeks for further legislative action.