REACTIONS AS IMO RECORDS LOWEST VOTER REGISTRATION IN NIGERIA

REPORTER: UGONNA AGU

Some eligible voters in Imo State have expressed dismay with the low turnout in the ongoing voter registration in the area.

They blamed the low turnout on loss of confidence in the electoral process, considering the people’s experience in the recent past.

To this end, they are calling on the government, political parties and the electoral commission to find a way to rebuild people’s confidence in the voting system so that more persons could come out and exercise their civic responsibility.

On June 28, 2021, the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the Continuous Voter registration.

The INEC Chairman, Mr. Mahmood Yakubu, said the continuous voter registration, which would be done online while the biometrics verification would be conducted physically at designated centers, would last till the third quarter of 2022.

According to INEC weekly update, at the end of the week 4 of the second quarter, Imo state remained the State with the least number of registered voters, with a total of 34,376 online registered voters, and 11,492 completed registered voters, which is about 0.7% of the total registered voters in the country.

Some electorate, who spoke with Radio Nigeria, said the low turnout of registrants was a fall out from the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state, which had made the people lose confidence in the electoral system.

“They have lost confidence in the voting system, with the legislative, the security apparel. They’ve shown us that our votes don’t count, so what is the essence of registering,? One of them enquired.

Another alleged: “Anything about voting in Imo State is a flop, they have trampled on our franchise.”

With the development, some political pundits envisaged low turnout of voters in the forthcoming 2023 elections if the government and the electoral body did not make conscious efforts to assure the people that their votes would count.

A public opinion analyst, Dr. Jude Ohanele, also blamed the low registration on loss of trust in the electoral process where the people already had developed the mindset that their votes would not count.

Mr. Ohanele called on the government, INEC and relevant stakeholders to use the just concluded Anambra State governorship election as a yardstick to win back the people’s trust in the electoral system.

“INEC, the government, the civil society, the town union should make sure that our people are encouraged to register for the purpose of voting and for other purposes, including referendum,” he advised.

Meanwhile, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Professor Emeka Ezeonu, blamed the low voter registration on unenthusiastic attitude of the people and the high level of insecurity in the state.

Professor Ezeonu recalled that the same scenario played out during the 2017 voter registration, but the turn out later increased after an advocacy tour of the commission to the 27 Local Government Areas of the state, which earned the state additional 1,235 pooling units.

“One, there appears to be a general apathy, Two, there is this problem of security. At Orlu zone, we have had to shut down some of our offices because of security, people feel scared, Prof. Ezeonu pointed out.

The INEC boss said that the electoral officers had engaged the services of town criers and embarked on stakeholders meeting to sensitize the people at the grassroots to the importance of voter registration.

He therefore called on government, politicians, civil society organizations and the media to join forces in sensitizing the people.

“It is about the consciousness of the people here, it’s not about INEC. It would have been a problem if people were turning out and we were not providing the facilities. It would have been a problem if we are not sensitizing the people,” the INEC REC remarked.

According to the INEC boss, the ongoing voter registration is for those who are above 18 years, those whose Permanent Voter’s Card got lost or damaged and those who wish to transfer to a different pooling unit or change any of their details.

Prof. Ezeonu urged those who had registered online to to visit their Local Government of registration for biometrics and capturing

He further admonished those who had not registered to do so on INEC website www.cvr.inecnigeria.org.

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