Many eligible voters who have completed their normal registration exercise may not be able to participate in the coming elections in the country, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which stated on Wednesday, in Abuja, that about 45 per cent of completed voter registrations across the country are invalid.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this while briefing reporters on the ongoing voter registration exercise at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, said the country, is now in the fourth quarter of the ongoing continuous voter registration (CVR) which was restarted on June 28, 2021, after it was suspended for the 2019 general election.
He said while the number of new registrants is very impressive, the commission has a duty to clean up the data to ensure that only eligible Nigerians are registered.
The INEC boss said “Presently, nearly 45% of completed registrations nationwide are invalid, rising to as high as 60% or more in some states. This infraction happened in all states of the federation. No state is immune from it. These invalid registrations will not be included in the register of voters. This development is worrisome because of the time and resources expended in handling these cases.
“These invalid registrations will not be included in the Register of Voters. This development is worrisome because of the time and resources expended in handling these cases.”
The INEC chief stated that the electoral umpire remained committed to transparency in the distribution of the registration figures, including the percentages of valid and invalid registrations on a state-by-state basis.
He lamented that the troubling issue of invalid registrations still persists as they were detected while cleaning up the latest registration data.
Yakubu explained that the commission introduced the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) – a more comprehensive and robust system, involving not just fingerprint identification but also facial biometric recognition.
He warned against the re-registration of eligible voters by INEC staff, stressing that any official aiding the process would be prosecuted.
“Even more disturbing are the strong indications that some of our staff may be complicit in facilitating these infractions, notwithstanding stern warnings,” the INEC boss said.
“Consequently, the commission is reviewing reports on such staff and has commenced a detailed investigation which may include the prosecution of those found culpable.
“Specific registrants associated with these infractions by our staff may also face prosecution in line with Sections 22 and 23 of the Electoral Act 2022.”
The INEC chairman revealed that after completing the data clean-up, the electoral umpire has printed 1,390,519 Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for genuine new registrants.
In addition, he stated that 464,340 PVCs for verified applicants for transfer or replacement of cards have also been printed.
Yakubu put the total number of PVCs ready for collection at 1,854,859, saying they would be delivered to INEC state offices across the country over the Easter holiday.
Read the full text of his briefing below:
TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU, ON THE ONGOING VOTER REGISTRATION EXERCISE HELD AT THE CONFERENCE ROOM, INEC HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA, ON WEDNESDAY 13TH APRIL 2022
Gentlemen of the Press
As you may know, the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise is now into the fourth quarter nationwide. We restarted the CVR on 28th June 2021 after it was suspended for the 2019 General Election.
Although the exercise was scheduled to restart earlier, it was delayed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and various security challenges, including the persistent attacks on our offices and facilities in various parts of the country, mainly between October 2020 and May 2021.
In restarting the CVR, the Commission introduced the online pre-registration system as part of our determination to continue to improve the electoral process and ensure that Nigerian voters have the best voting experience.
This innovation makes it possible for intending registrants and already registered voters who may have issues with their registration to commence the process online and subsequently complete it in person at a Registration Centre of their choice. This has worked tremendously well based on the reports we have received so far.
Since the resumption of the CVR exercise, millions of eligible citizens have availed themselves of this online pre-registration facility as well as the physical registration in our State and Local Government Area offices nationwide to register, update their records or transfer their registration to other places where they wish to vote in future elections.
Again, you may recall that at our press conference held on 24th June 2021 just before the commencement of the CVR, the Commission informed the nation that the exercise will take place over a period of one year with the one-week mandatory publication/display of the register for claims and objections by citizens as required by law taking place every three months. The quarterly exercise was broken down into four phases as follows:
S/No. Quarter Activity Date
First Registration of Voters 28th June – 21st September 20221
Display of the Register 24th – 30th September 2021
Second Registration of Voters 4th October – 20th December 2021
Display of the Register 24th – 30th December 2021
Third Registration of Voters 3rd January – 22nd March 2022
Display of the Register 26th March – 1st April 2022
Fourth Registration of Voters 11th April – 30th June 2022
Display of the Register 4th – 11th July 2022
The purpose of this press conference is to brief the nation on the outcome of the First and Second Quarters of the CVR exercise. During the period from 28th June to 2oth December 2021, millions of Nigerians commenced their registration online and thereafter scheduled appointments to complete the process physically.
Millions more visited our State and Local Government offices to register in person without the option of going through the online procedure. For the pre-registration option, 1,014,382 registrants completed the process while 1,509,076 Nigerians registered in person at our designated registration centres nationwide.
Furthermore, 671,106 Nigerians submitted requests to update their records, transfer their registration from where they are currently registered to other locations, or the replacement of their lost or damaged PVCs.
The Cleaning up of Data
While the number of new registrants is very impressive and demonstrates the eagerness of Nigerians to vote in the forthcoming elections, the Commission has a duty to clean up the data to ensure that only eligible Nigerians are registered.
As you are aware, the foundation for any credible election rests on the credibility of the Register of Voters. The introduction of the biometric registration of voters in 2011 has helped to sanitise the Register. You may recall that initially, 73,528,040 Nigerians were registered in 2011. Using the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the Commission was able to remove 4,239,923 invalid registrations.
Consequently, the Register of Voters for the 2015 General Election stood at 69,288,117 voters. Subsequently, some 432,173 new voters were added to the Register during the CVR exercises ahead of the off-cycle Governorship elections in five States (Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo, Ondo, and Anambra) from late 2015 to early 2017, bringing the total number of registered voters in Nigeria to 69,720,350.
You may also recall that preparatory to the 2019 General Election, the Commission, for the first time, embarked on a nationwide CVR exercise on a continuous basis as provided by law. From 27th April 2017 to 31st August 2018, 15,317,872 new voters were registered. Out of this figure, 1,034,141 ineligible registrants were detected and removed from the register to arrive at the figure of 84,004,084 voters for that election.
Unfortunately, the troubling issue of invalid registration still persists which we detected while cleaning up the latest registration data. As against the AFIS used in previous exercises, the Commission introduced the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) which is a more comprehensive and robust system, involving not just fingerprint identification but also the facial biometric recognition.
Sadly, it seems that many registrants, either out of ignorance that they do not need to re-register if they had done so before, or a belief that our systems will not detect this infraction, have gone out to register again. This is despite repeated warnings by the Commission against this illegal action.
In addition, there are also registrants whose data were incomplete and did not meet our Business Rules for inclusion in the register. Both categories i.e. the failure of ABIS and incomplete data constitute invalid registrations.
Presently, nearly 45% of completed registrations nationwide are invalid, rising to as high as 60% or more in some States. This infraction happened in all States of the Federation. No State is immune from it.
These invalid registrations will not be included in the Register of Voters. In our commitment to transparency, the distribution of the registration figures, including the percentages of valid and invalid registrations on State-by-State basis, will be made available to you at this press conference. The same information will be uploaded to the Commission’s website and social media platforms immediately.
This development is worrisome because of the time and resources expended in handling these cases. Even more disturbing are the strong indications that some of our staff may be complicit in facilitating these infractions, notwithstanding stern warnings.
Consequently, the Commission is reviewing reports on such staff and has commenced a detailed investigation which may include the prosecution of those found culpable. Specific registrants associated with these infractions by our staff may also face prosecution in line with Sections 22 and 23 of the Electoral Act 2022.
I wish to seize this opportunity to request political parties, the media, civil society organisations, and the general public to assist the Commission in educating Nigerians about the problem of invalid registration. As we have repeatedly explained, if you had at any time in the past registered to vote, you do not have to reregister.
If you have registered in the past, you should not get involved in the CVR again unless you have had problems with your PVC or fingerprint recognition during accreditation in any previous election. In that case, all you need to do is to revalidate your registration by visiting a designated registration centre to recapture your fingerprints and picture.
Other registered persons who may also get involved in the CVR are those whose PVCs are missing or defaced; those whose details need correction and those seeking to transfer from their current places of voting to other locations. These cases do not involve new registration. Apart from these, the CVR is essentially for Nigerians who have attained the age of 18 years and have not registered earlier.
With our improved systems using the ABIS, the Commission shall continue to clean up the register to eliminate invalid registration and ensure that only those who should be in the Register of Voters are included. It is precisely the introduction of this more robust system that has enabled us to improve our ability to detect these invalid registrants.
However, we also suspect that some of these invalid registrations may have arisen out of ignorance. Consequently, the Commission is establishing a dedicated Help Desk for people who need information about the CVR. Kindly use the Help Desk if you are in doubt about your registration status or whether you should register or not.
Furthermore, citizens who have no access to the internet can ask the Registration Officer at the Registration Centre before proceeding. You can contact the Help Desk by phone as well as our various social media handles.
Availability of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs)
After completing the data clean up, the Commission has printed 1,390,519 PVCs for genuine new registrants. In addition, 464,340 PVCs for verified applicants for transfer or replacement of cards have also been printed. Consequently, a total of 1,854,859 PVCs are now ready. They will be delivered to our state offices across the country over the Easter holiday. They will be available for collection by the actual owners in person immediately after the holiday.
No PVC will be collected by proxy. I must reiterate that the available cards only cover those who registered in the First and Second Quarters of the exercise. The Commission wishes to assure those who registered between January and March 2022, as well as those who are doing so right now that their PVCs will be ready for collection long before the 2023 General Election.
The Case of Ekiti and Osun States
The Commission is aware that new voters in the two States as well as those who applied for transfer or replacement of their lost/damaged PVCs are anxious to know when their voters’ cards will be available for collection. To begin with, the cards for all new voters in the two States who registered between June and December 2021 have been printed.
They are among the cards to be delivered to the States of the Federation during the Easter break. For the two States, the Commission also devolved the registration to Ward level and thereafter suspended the exercise. The remaining PVCs for Ekiti State will be ready later this week while those of Osun State will be ready in two weeks. All registered voters will get their PVCs before the two Governorship elections.
Party Primaries For The 2023 General Election
The Commission wishes to reiterate that the dates for all activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election, including the conduct of party primaries, are firm and fixed. Already, ten political parties have served notices to the Commission for the conduct of their primaries.
With 52 days to the last day for the conduct of primaries (i.e. 3rd June 2022), political parties are once again admonished to adhere strictly to all dates in the Timetable, including the nomination of their candidates via the INEC web portal.
Such nominated candidates must emerge from valid primaries as provided in Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022. This is necessary to avoid the unhappy consequences of any breach of the Commission’s Timetable or the Electoral Act.
In conclusion, I would like to appeal to all Nigerians who registered between June and December 2021 to collect their PVCs in person. As we devolve the voter registration beyond our State and Local Government offices nationwide, the PVCs will also be available at such designated centres in our effort to make the collection easier for voters.
In addition, we will also contact the 1.8 million registrants by email and text messages on the availability of the cards and the places to collect them. On behalf of the Commission, I thank you for your presence and consistent support to our country’s electoral process. God bless.