The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed July 31 for the suspension of the ongoing nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The commission disclosed this in a statement by Mr Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, after an extraordinary meeting of the commission in Abuja on Friday.
The decision according to him is to allow the commission perform the legal requirements it has to undertake before the general elections.
He disclosed that to ensure that more Nigerians were registered before the date, the hours of registration had been extended to eight hours daily from 9am to 5pm, including weekends.
Okoye said the commission took the decision at its extraordinary meeting where it discussed among other things, the suspension of the ongoing CVR.
This followed the judgment delivered by the Federal High Court on Wednesday July 13 2022 in which it dismissed the suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) seeking an extension of the exercise beyond June, 30 2022.
The Court had affirmed that INEC remained at liberty to appoint a date of its choice to suspend the CVR, provided it was not later than 90 days before the date fixed for the general elections as provided in Sec. 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022.
Okoye said that 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, INEC continued with the CVR beyond June 30.
He said that for that reason, the CVR had already been extended beyond June 30 for a period of 15 days.
“With the judgment of the Federal High Court, all legal encumbrances have now been removed. Accordingly, the commission has taken the following decisions:
“The CVR is hereby extended for another two weeks until Sunday July 31 , thereby bringing the total duration of the extension to 31 days (July 1 to July 31, 2022).
“The exercise has also been extended to eight hours daily from 9am – 5pm instead of the current duration of six hours (9am – 3pm) daily; and
“The exercise is also extended to include weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) as against only weekdays.”
Okoye said that INEC appreciated that the timeframe might be tight for many prospective registrants, but there was a lot that the commission was required to do under the electoral legal framework in relation to voter registration and compilation of the register that would require time to accomplish.
He said that for instance, INEC was 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 which lasts for a period of one week.”
Okoye said that on the basis of a new projection of 95 million voters, on the basis of 10 voters per page, the commission had to print 9,500,000 pages for the display;
He added that INEC was also required to print millions of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for all fresh registrants and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs;
“INEC is required to: Ensure that there is ample time for voters to collect their PVCs ahead of the 2023 general elections;
“Print the final register of voters in triplicate for the 2023 general elections involving a projected 28,500,000 pages for accreditation and display at 176,846 polling units for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on Feb. 25, 2023 and State elections (Governorship and State Assembly) on March 11, 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 elections .
“We appeal for patience and understanding of all Nigerians as we conclude the exercise which will resume after the 2023 general elections.”
Okoye noted that INEC observed that following the continuation of the exercise beyond June 30, many of the registration centres recorded low turnout of prospective registrants.
He said that with the two-week extension, INEC appealed to eligible citizens not to wait until the last few days before they inundated 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,” he said.