After the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the commencement of permanent voters card registration on 28th June 2021, the initial reactions by citizens were lacklustre as there wasn’t an impressive turnout in the beginning.
However, 2022 recorded an influx of registration as INEC, and other CSOs such as YMonitor embarked on a PVC drive to ensure a quick and increase in enrolment of citizens. The Pre-announced deadline had to be extended after the uproar by citizens and civil societies.
According to reports released by the commission, 84,004,084 residents registered for their Permanent Voters Card in the previous General election. Accordingly, after the 31st July 2022 deadline by INEC, Nigeria’s total number of registered voters has risen from 84 million to 96.2 million, as announced on 1st August 2022. This figure showed a progressive increase of 12.2 million compared to the previous election.
INEC had to be commended for the rise in registered voters in the country. The partnership between INEC and other CSOs was visible as the upsurge in the numbers of registered voters was noticeable. However, the electoral process doesn’t stop at the registration of voters. Numerous facilities have to be put in place by the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure a credible electoral exercise in February and March 2023.
INEC must intensify efforts to ensure proper permanent voter card collection throughout the country. Despite roughly 84 million Nigerians registering in the previous general elections, 73,394,386 residents were able to collect their voter cards. The figure represents 87.37% of the total registered persons in the election.
The use of technology can be employed by the electoral body to ensure proper PVC collections. For example, aside from the usual announcement on radio and television, INEC could use text messages and Email messages to disseminate the dates of receiving the cards to the residents. The body can further use all the information collected during the registration process in the circumstances like this.
Regarding voter education, the electoral body should engage in publicity activities that should enlighten the public about participation in electoral activities and discourage nefarious activities like thuggery, vote buying and other activities that comprise electoral offences in the Electoral Act.
Organising community outreaches to rural areas that aren’t covered by the Internet should be one of the body’s priorities. For example, The electoral commission should use leaflets translated into the area’s language, information via road shows, and audio-visual materials to inform the masses about their duties and rights.
The last weekly update by INEC revealed that 8,784,677 youths registered for their PVC in the previous week. Initiatives that cater to the youth should be established and created. INEC, in partnership with the University authorities, should organise a youth sensitisation campaign reaching out to the students regarding electoral activities. Famous artists and Celebrities who are adequately informed should be featured in this process.
The bedrock of any democracy should be a free and fair election, and an unbiased electoral body should be a primary mechanism for utilising this principle. The incoming 2023 general elections are a deciding one in the country’s history, and all hands should be on deck to guarantee a peaceful transition of power.