The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to sue the independent Electoral Commission (INEC) if it fails to allow 7 million Nigerians who have done the online pre-registration exercise to complete the process.
This is coming on the heels of a recent disclosure by INEC 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% of completed online registration.
According to information on its website, this disclosure is contained in a letter dated August 13, 2022, and signed by SERAP’s, Kolawole Oluwadare, in which the organisation said that 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.
This is coming barely 2 weeks after INEC formally stopped the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) with about 12,298,944 Nigerians completing the voter registration process.
SERAP said, “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.”
SERAP said that the alleged failure of the applicants to complete their registration at INEC designated centres was not enough sufficient reason to justify their exclusion from the 2023 general elections.
The letter from SERAP partly reads, “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 7 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 elections.
“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.
“This severe vote deprivation cannot be justified by any perceived considerations of saving time, especially because Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that ‘the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters shall not stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act.
“Providing fresh opportunity for the over seven million Nigerians to complete their registration would promote and preserve the right to vote, and ensure that legal and eligible voters are not inadvertently and unjustifiably turned away from exercising their fundamental right to vote.
“By refusing the over seven million Nigerians the opportunity to complete the registration for their PVCs, INEC have unfairly, unreasonably, and unjustifiably denied them the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner as to the reasons for not completing their registration.
“Allowing eligible Nigerians to complete their registration would improve citizens’ participation in the electoral process, and public confidence in the electoral system, as well as the ability of INEC to discharge its constitutional and statutory responsibility fairly, justly, and reasonably.
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
“According to our information, the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), recently disclosed that over seven million Nigerians who carried out their voter pre-registration online could not complete the process at physical centres.
“According to a report released by INEC, out of 10,487,972 Nigerians who carried out their pre-registration online, only 3,444,378 Nigerians representing 32.8 percent, completed the process at a physical centre. 7,043,594 Nigerians carried out their pre-registration but are yet to complete the process at a physical centre.
“This represents over 67 percent of those who began their registration process online.
“According to INEC, a total of 12,298,944 Nigerians completed their voter registration; 8,854,566 of which were persons who did their registration entirely at a physical centre
“The over seven million Nigerians have already completed their registration online, that is, via the INEC online portal by providing their biodata and required documents.
The Independent National Electoral Commission has announced that 8,784,677 million youths made up the 12,298,944 Nigerians who completed the voter registration process, as it formally ends the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).