• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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93.5 million voters to decide next president in 2023

James Kwen

Barring any further change, a total of 93.5 million duly registered Nigerians will vote for candidates of their choice at the 2023 general election.

This followed the invalidation of 2.7 million ineligible registrants from the record of the 12.2 million newly registered voters.

The removal is due to double/multiple, underaged and fake registrations that failed to meet the business rules of the last Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise.

Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), disclosed these at the third quarterly meeting with political parties in Abuja on Wednesday.

INEC had projected that about 95 million Nigerians will be voting in the 2023 general election at the end of the CVR in July which had 12.2 million fresh registrants added to the existing 84 million register of voters.

Yakubu said: “At the end of the exercise, 12,298,944 Nigerians successfully completed the registration as new voters. All along, we have repeatedly assured Nigerians that our process of cleaning up the register is robust.

“After a rigorous cleaning-up of the data using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), a total of 2,780,756 (22.6%) were identified as ineligible registrants and invalidated from the record. Consequently, the number of valid registrations (post-ABIS) is 9,518,188.

“In terms of demographic distribution, 7.2 million new voters or 76.5% are young people between 18-34 years while there is a slightly higher number of females (4.8 million or 50.82%) than males (4.6 million or 49.18%) voters. In terms of occupation, 3.8 million (40.8%) are students.”

The INEC chairman explained that fictitious registrations were carried out by some of the Commission’s registration officers involved in the field exercise and which were easily traced.

He said each registration machine was operated using an access code tied to a dedicated e-mail assigned to a staff, hence there was an audit trail that gives the total number of persons registered by each official involved in the registration exercise.

Yakubu said in some cases, some of the officials made as many as 40 attempts or more to register one fake voter, adding that INEC has so far identified 23 officers involved in that unethical conduct and disciplinary action has commenced.

He further stated that: “The 9,518,188 new voters have been added to the existing register of 84,004,084 voters. The PRELIMINARY register of voters in Nigeria now stands at 93,522,272.

“It is preliminary because Section 19(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 requires the Commission to display the hard copies of the register of voters for each Registration Area (Ward) and Local Government Area (and simultaneously publish the entire register on the Commission’s website) for a period of two weeks for scrutiny, claims and objections by citizens not later than 90 days to a General Election.

“Accordingly, in the next few days, the Commission will print 9,352,228 pages of the register. The hard copy will be displayed for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) and 774 Local Government Areas nationwide while the entire register will be published on our website for claims and objections as required by law.

“The display of the physical register will take place at the designated centres from Saturday 12th – Friday 25th November 2022. Further details, including the procedure for filing claims and objections, will be released by the Commission next week.”

Yakubu also said the Commission is working hard to ensure the completion of printing of the remaining Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for new voters as well as those that applied to transfer or the replacement of their lost or damaged cards.

He further said that in the coming days, INEC would also inform Nigerians of the detailed plan to ensure a seamless collection of the PVCs, acknowledging that, Nigerians expect an improvement in the procedure for cards’ collection.
The INEC chairman warned political parties to desist from violent clashes at campaigns and other electoral offences as the umpire body will not hesitate to initiate the prosecution of violators as provided by law.

“Last week, the Commission cautioned political parties, candidates and their supporters to eschew violence during the electioneering campaign.

Read also: Uncollected PVCs: INEC urges media to engage political parties to mobilise supporters

“The statement was necessary against the background of clashes among supporters of different political parties, including allegations of denial of access to public facilities and the destruction of billboards and other outdoor campaign materials by acts of thuggery.

“The campaigns have just begun. As party leaders, you should remain committed to peaceful electioneering. We will continue to work together to remove encumbrances to the right of parties and candidates to freely canvass for the support of the electorate.

“The Commission will continue to track the campaigns and will not hesitate to initiate the prosecution of violators as provided by law,” he added.

He also reiterated that there was no going back on the transmission of results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in real-time on Election Day.

He insisted that there will be no Incident Form that enables ineligible persons to vote using other people’s PVCs during elections.

In his remarks, Sani Yabagi, the national chairman of Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), expressed concern on the emerging negative signals against peaceful, credible conduct of the 2023 general election.

He also decried the brazen breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act and other extant laws on the use of money with impunity, during the last off-season governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states.

“IPAC leadership has also noted the spikes in the use of divisive languages and hate speeches by several chieftains and spokespersons of some of the political parties in the mass media and at political rallies.

“We want to assure you that the reprehensible, irresponsible and reckless utterances which are already heating up the polity with the potential of leading to even more dangerous dimension of igniting mutual hate, animosity and violence along the nation’s existing tenuous fault lines are being addressed by IPAC,” Yabagi said.