The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally suspended the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) for Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) after 13 months.
The CVR resumed in June 2021 to give millions of Nigerians the opportunity to register as new voters ahead of the 2023 general elections and millions turned up.
The registration exercise finally closed on July 31st, 2022 after a dramatic final few weeks, involving a court case to extend it — which was dismissed in favour of INEC. Here are the most important things we learnt.
Nigerian youths are serious
By the time the CVR was suspended, INEC had registered a total of 12.3 million new voters in 13 months.
— 8.8 million of the new voters are young people aged between 18 and 34 years old.
— 4.5 million of total new registrants are students, many of whom are currently affected by the closure of universities due to the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Nigerian youths are often accused of going missing in the electoral process but the number of young, newly-registered voters may suggest a change in the tide. All that’s left is to receive their PVCs and show up for the elections.
Digital technology makes things easier. Who knew?
For the CVR exercise, INEC allowed new voters to apply online. This enabled applicants to pre-register and book appointments for a later date to complete registration at INEC centres. The online portal remained open for a year and gave many Nigerians a chance to start their registration process from the comfort of their homes.
The ease of registration was pivotal to getting many people to register early for the process. This speaks volumes about how much more INEC needs to involve the use of technology in the electoral process to make it more seamless. Nigerians want things to be more accessible and we can’t blame them.
Online registrants dozed off
Despite the use of the online portal, a great percentage of Nigerians who started their registration online didn’t complete it. INEC received a total of 10.5 million online applications from new voters, but only 3.4 million completed the process for their PVCs.
It means Nigeria could have seven million more new voters right now if people who began the process online, left the comfort of their homes to complete the biometrics capture at INEC stations. Or could it just be because of the manpower issues INEC failed to address
INEC needs to be protected
Generally, Nigeria has a worrying security crisis on its hands, so it’s no surprise that it also touched INEC and the PVC registration process. Gunmen killed an INEC official during an attack on a centre in Imo State in April 2022. They also warned people to stop registering for PVCs, threatening that there’ll be no election.
The attack resulted in the suspension of PVC registration in the affected area and was one of the black marks on the CVR exercise in a long line of aggression against the electoral process. INEC has suffered 41 attacks spread across 14 states, since 2019, and remains a target for non-state actors.
The government needs to provide more security cover for Nigerians going into the general elections to instill confidence in the process.
The number of new voters still short of expectations
The demand for PVCs ahead of the 2023 elections has been described as unprecedented, but the numbers simply fail to back up the claim.
In 2021, INEC set a target to register 20 million new voters, but the final tally of 12.3 million (61.5%) new voters falls way off that target. It’s also less than the 14.2 million new voters who registered ahead of the 2019 general elections, although that CVR exercise lasted for a longer period — 15 months, as opposed to this period’s 13 months.
The PVC registration process needs to be more effective
Despite INEC’s best efforts, many problems plagued the CVR exercise during its 13-month run. There were periods when centres were overrun by enthusiastic applicants without adequate manpower and resources to deal with them. Many critics have also expressed disdain towards the 13-month timeline of the exercise.
With PVC registration now suspended seven months before the election, tens of thousands of Nigerian youths who turn 18 before the next general elections will be disenfranchised.
INEC’s excuse is that it needs a lot of time to process applications and deliver PVCs to applicants before the elections, but that’s simply not good enough in 2022. The process has to become more efficient to cater to as many eligible Nigerians as possible.
Our message to INEC: