The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has implored Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, and the citizens, especially youths, to get involved in deepening the country’s democracy.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at the commission’s consultative meeting with CSOs on Wednesday in Abuja, said that citizens should not just lament but get involved in the democratic process.
Mr Yakubu advised CSOs to sensitise voters, especially the youth who constituted the larger percentage in the voter register, to come out and vote on election days.
He disclosed that as at Jan. 17 a total of 8,260,076 Nigerians had commenced or completed their registrations and applications in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration, with the youths consistently maintaining the lead.
“Since the exercise commenced in June 2021, INEC has so far published 36 weekly reports which show a consistent pattern of young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 34 years constituting the largest majority of registrants.
“In terms of occupation, students constitute the largest majority of registrants which is consistent with the dominance of young Nigerians as voters.
“We will continue to work with all stakeholders, especially the civil society organisations to sensitise the youths and other categories of voters to ensure that beyond registration, they come out and vote on election days.
“We should not simply lament, criticise and condemn. We must get involved for the good of our democracy and the country ,” Yakubu said.
He appreciated the role of CSOs in encouraging and mobilising eligible Nigerians who have not registered to do so.
“At the same time, we want you to continue to sensitise them that those who had registered at any time previously need not register again.
“For those who have completed the registration, the commission is right now undertaking the most comprehensive cleaning up of the data to ensure that only eligible citizens are added to the voters’ register for the 2023 general elections.
“We will share our findings with Nigerians very soon. The actual dates for the collection of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) nationwide will also be announced very soon,” Mr Yakubu said.
On the elections in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Mr Yakubu said that in the next few weeks INEC would intensify stakeholder engagements, the monitoring of campaigns by political parties and preparations for election day activities.
On the distribution of voters to polling units in the FCT, Mr Yakubu said that 593 out of 2,822 (21 per cent) of the total PUs in territory did not have voter cards.
Mr Yakubu said it was because voters failed to take advantage of the expansion of access to transfer to their new polling units.
“The commission looks forward to the support of civil society organisations to encourage voters who wish to transfer from their present polling units to new ones created as part of the commission’s expansion of access to polling units across the country.
“After mall, the support of civil society organisations is crucial to the success of the recent expansion of voter access to polling units for the first time in 25 years since the initial delimitation in 1996,” Mr Yakubu said.
Speaking on behalf of the CSOs, Grace Jerry said the organisations have been working to ensure that all the gaps in the Amended Electoral Act were closed and the bill assented to by the president.
Ms Jerry also commended INEC for deepening Nigeria`s democracy and for the successful conduct of the Anambra governorship election in spite of the daunting challenges that characterised the election.
She called for necessary support for INEC to make the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, as well as the FCT Area Council elections, a success, saying all hands must be on deck.
Ms Jerry also advised INEC to ensure that the elections were peaceful and for registered voters to get their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, on time.
“One of the challenges that we met during the Anambra governorship election was that voters were not able to access their PVCs in good time.
“This is an area that we would like the commission to look into seriously so that citizens will be able to vote and ensure that they exercise their franchise.
“I also would like INEC to ensure that this elections are inclusive,” he said.
Ms Jerry said the CSOs wanted to ensure that people with disabilities in FCT came out to exercise their franchise effectively and unaided.