By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja – Stakeholders on Tuesday urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to synergise with other public and non-governmental institutions to enhance the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral process.
This is contained in the communique of a One-Day Focus Group Discussion (FGD), organised by INEC under the auspices of The Electoral Institute (TEI) and the University of Ibadan Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (UI-Lisa) on “Voter Apathy Towards Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and Elections in Nigeria”, held in Abuja.
The Forum participants were drawn from carefully selected stakeholder groups including registered political parties, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), religious bodies, academia, press, INEC officials and others.
The forum identified loss of confidence in the political class, lack of democratic dividend, insecurity, threat of violence; and Lack of voters’ confidence in the election process and outcomes.
Other reasons they identified include threat of violence; and Lack of voters’ confidence in the election process and outcomes as well as “doubt of whether their votes will count or not”,
They also noted that a “Large number of people were unintentionally excluded from voting.
“These include security personnel, Nigerians in diaspora, prisoners, INEC ad hoc and regular staff, patients in hospitals, workers on essential duties.”
They therefore recommended Increase Civic Education by political parties, CSOs and INEC, and “synergy between INEC and the National Assembly to provide a comprehensive framework that would enhance the integrity of electoral processes”.
The Forum also recommended that “to enhance voting participation, Justice Uwais Report 2008 should be re-visited.
“Also, there is need to amend the Electoral Act to allow people vote wherever they are irrespective of where they register”.
Other recommendations were that INEC should synergise with relevant institutions in order to achieve a target of 70 per cent voters’ turnout.
“INEC should do more to ensure that security is beefed up before, during and after elections to erase the atmosphere of fear; and Ad-hoc staff should be screened, cross-examined and their integrity ascertained”.
On Continuous Voter Registration Exercise, the group implored INEC to collaborate with relevant agencies with comparable databases for the purpose of cleaning the register of voters.
They also called for decentralisation of the CVR exercise by creating more registration areas in order to reduce the challenge of proximity.
According to the forum, INEC “must to do everything possible to ensure that the CVR process is made easy and faster in order to ensure expediency”.
It added that “INEC and relevant security agencies should expose and prosecute all offenders of multiple registrations as a deterrent to others in future”.
On ways to improve the CVR exercise, INEC was urged to “explore the possibility of carrying out on-line registration as a second option which will make it possible for people to register from everywhere”.
Other suggestions on improving the CVR exercise by the Focused group were the increase of number of days for training of ad hoc staff.
This according to the participants was important in order make them more efficient and effective in conducting the CVR exercise, and that that the process should be done continuously as the name implies.