By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said its decision to suspend the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) was not prompted by pressure from any quarter.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the clarification in Abuja during a meeting with a delegation of “Our Mumu Don Do” group, a social movement.
NAN reports that INEC had set the deadline of Aug. 17 as end of the exercise, and said it would continue after the 2019 general elections slated for Feb.16 and March.
Yakubu told the group, which led a protest demanding for extension of the exercise to his office, that INEC was not under pressure from either political parties or the government, as being speculated.
He said that the move was mainly to ensure that the commission meets up with production and distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to the registered voters before the 2019 general elections.
He said that the date was arrived at after meetings with stakeholders like the media, civil society organisations, security agencies and the political parties.
He said that all the stakeholders agreed with the commission on the deadline, in order to ensure adequate preparations for 2019 general elections.
Yakubu stated that INEC had registered 11 million new registrants, under the ongoing CVR exercise which started 16 months ago.
“As of Aug. 5, we have registered 11 million Nigerians.
“These are fresh registrants that we are going to add to the existing registrants of 70 million registrants, making over 80 million Nigerians registered for 2019 general elections.
“We have so far received over 569,000 requests for transfer and we have 909 requests for replacement of damage, defaced and lost PVCs.
“We have responded to this surge by putting up additional machines and more centres for registration.
“We have also extended the time for registration in terms of hours of registration in the day, that is closing time from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.”
He added that the commission had also increased the numbers of CVR centres from 774 to 146,000 across the country.
He, however, said that the deadline was not applicable to collections of PVCs, which he said would continue until about a week to 2019 elections.
He added that measures had already been taken to ensure that registered voters who were yet to collect their voter cards do so.
“From the 2015 general elections, we have about seven million uncollected cards, by the time you add it to new registrants we will have up to 15 million uncollected cards.
“So, we have to suspend the registration exercise, make the cards available and work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that citizens collect their cards before 2019 election.”
The National Secretary of the group, Mr Adebayo Raphael, called for the extension of the deadline for registration exercise to Dec. 14.
He stated that the group had been inundated with calls and complaints from other notable groups and concerned citizens.
“It is our well-considered view that INEC has had enough time to perfect the process of registration and other activities to run concurrently with the preparation for elections,” he said.
Also, leader of the group, Mr Charles Oputa, popularly known as Charly Boy said they were at INEC headquarters to represent interest of Nigerians.
He said that the meeting had allowed the group to interact with INEC on way forward on the CVR and other matters of interest in the electoral processes.