Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, to give seven million Nigerians who have carried out their voter registration online the time and opportunity to complete the process so that they could obtain their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs), and exercise their right to vote.
INEC recently disclosed that out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 completed the process at a physical centre. This represents just 32.8 per cent of completed online registration.
In the letter, dated August 13, 2022 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said: “The right to vote is not merely the right to cast a ballot but also the right to be given the time and opportunity to complete the registration process, so that the right can be meaningfully and effectively exercised.
“Closing the gates on eligible Nigerians and denying them the time and opportunity to complete their registration cannot preserve trust in the electoral process.
“Denying a significant number of eligible voters the time and opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs would impair the right to vote of those affected, deny them a voice in the 2023 elections, and lead to disparate and unfair treatment of these voters.
“The failure of the applicants to complete their registration may be due to factors entirely outside of their control, especially given the well-documented challenges faced by many Nigerians at registration centres across the country.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP and the affected Nigerians shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.”
“Unless they are given a reasonable time and opportunity to complete the registration process, and to obtain their voter cards, these eligible Nigerians will not be able to vote in the 2023 general elections.
“If citizens’ chance to vote is denied, that would amount to violation of their fundamental right to vote, just as it would be, if they were prevented from casting any vote at all.
“The alleged failure of the applicants to complete their registration at INEC designated centres are not sufficiently weighty to justify their exclusion from the 2023 general election.
“Any proffered justifications of saving time and cost are, therefore, wholly insufficient. Administrative convenience is simply not a compelling justification in light of the fundamental nature of the right to vote.”