From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced June 28 as the commencement date for the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise across Nigeria.
Chairman of the Commission Prof Mahmood Yakubu, in his address to announce the recommencement of the CVR, disclosed that although the Commission will introduce new voter registration equipment and technology, and that the National Indentity Number (NIN) will not be a consideration for registration.
‘The Commission has decided to introduce a new voter registration equipment and technology. The present generation of voter registration equipment, which the Commission introduced in 2011, is the Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM). This is based on a laptop and a series of peripherals connected to it,’ Yakubu indicated on Thursday.
‘In addition, it includes large power-packes to power the laptops in the field. While the DDCMs have served the Commission well over the last 10 years, we believe that there are now more compact registration devices that will better serve Nigerians during the CVR exercise.
‘The Commission is therefore migrating to the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), which is based on an Android tablet. The procurement of the new device, the modification of the registration software by our in-house engineers to make it compatible with the Android Operating System, as well as integrating these with the online registration portal require a little more time. For instance, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners abroad who manufacture the IVED hardware are not operating at full capacity and the pandemic has also made the supply chain and delivery much slower.
‘In consideration of these challenges and the measures we have taken to overcome them, the Commission is now in a position to announce Monday, June 28, 2021 as the date for the recommencement of the CVR exercise nationwide.
‘Effective from this date, the CVR exercise will commence nationwide and carried out continuously for over a year until the third quarter of the 2022. However, emphasis will initially be on Anambra state where more centres will be established in view of the governorship election already scheduled for Saturday, November 6, 2021. In order to complete preparations for the governorship election, the CVR exercise in the state will be temporarily suspended in August 2021. This will enable the Commission to clean up the data for the state and print the PVCs for registrants. As time goes on, the Commission will provide more details on the CVR exercise, particularly the innovations that will ensure a safe and stress-free experience for registrants.
‘On whether the commission will demand the registrantz providing their NIN, I want to say it clearly that we will not demand NIN for the CVR exercise,’ he said.
Speaking further, the INEC boss explained that: ‘The CVR could not recommence in 2020 due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with the general advise by health officials regarding events involving large groups of people, we considered it inauspicious to restart the CVR at the height of the pandemic.
‘The Commission issued a detailed policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which focused mainly on elections proper, since these elections must hold to prevent any constitutional crisis linked to end of tenure. Such elections took place in Edo and Ondo States late last year.
‘In the light of the prevailing circumstances, the Commission promised the nation that it would recommence the CVR in the first quarter of 2021. Our thinking at the time was that at the turn of the new year, we would have completed all outstanding off-season governorship elections and that the pandemic would have eased. We also needed time to put in place new systems that would facilitate safer registration of voters, should the pandemic persist.
‘The first quarter of 2021 ended yesterday and obviously the Commission was unable to restart the CVR exercise. It is, therefore, in line with our long-standing pledge to carry Nigerians along in all our activities and to make them aware of any challenges in the discharge of our functions, that the Commission has called this Press Conference.
‘There are three cardinal reasons why the exercise could not start earlier. The first is the establishment of new systems that would ensure safer CVR exercise in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, the Commission is building a new online registration portal that would enable new registrants to commence registration online and subsequently complete the capture of their biometric data at designated registration centres.
‘This is designed to reduce crowding. Through the online portal, they can schedule their visits to the registration centres to suit their convenience. Above all, a CVR locator is integrated into the new portal which will enable online registrants to locate the nearest registration centre available to them to complete their registration.
‘Previously, registered voters who wished to transfer their voting locations, apply for replacement of their PVCs or correct their personal information had to appear physically at the registration centres. The development of this portal, which is being done in-house by our engineers, has taken a little more time to complete than the Commission anticipated.
‘The second reason is the Commission’s determination to expand voter access to Polling Units. You would all recall that recently the Commission embarked on a nationwide engagement with Nigerians in which we raised the fundamental issue of declining voter access to Polling Units across the country. The engagement clearly demonstrated that the existing Polling Units are inadequate.
‘They were initially designed to cater for a projected 50 million voters but presently serve over 84 million voters. In addition, many of the Polling Units are inaccessible to voters, especially Persons With Disability (PWDs), and are not conducive to implementing the Commission’s election regulations, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘We are glad that most Nigerians agree with the Commission on this issue, and we have commenced a far-reaching programme of converting Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements into full-fledged Polling Units and relocating poorly situated Polling Units to better locations.
‘The Commission needs more time to complete this exercise, so that the new Polling Units will be available for registrants to choose during the CVR exercise,’ he said.