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INEC admits security threats at registration areas, segments exercise

From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed deep worried over prospective attack threats from unscrupulous elements on its registration centres across the country during the forthcoming Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.

INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who expressed the concerns, however, noted that it will commence the exercise through online portals until the security report confirms an improved situation.

He also disclosed that the Commission is deploying Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), no fewer than 5,346 staff to the 2,673 registration centres nationwide to ensure a smooth exercise, stressing that the June 28 resumption date remains sacrosanct.

Allaying the fears expressed by some Nigerians that many citizens may be disenfranchised by the new digital arrangement, the Commission’s boss also disclosed that the commencement date of physical CRV at all the 2,673 registration centres will be determined based on evaluation of the security situation of the areas.

The Commission sternly warned Nigerians and prospective registrants that there will be no INEC-approved cybercafe, no online registration centre and no scratch card to be purchased for the exercise.

While raising security concerns, the INEC boss said: ‘As you are aware, the Commission has had the sad experience of recent attacks on our offices across the country. In most cases, these offices have been burnt or vandalized. Clearly, the aim of the attackers was to undermine the Commission‚Äôs capacity to organize elections and other electoral activities, including the CVR.

‘Luckily, only buildings, equipment and materials have been destroyed. Although the attacks have subsided, the Commission is still deeply worried by the threat that they could pose to registrants and our staff during the CVR.

‘As a result of this profound concern, the Commission has made representations to government and had several discussions with stakeholders, including security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), political parties, civil society organizations and the media.

‘During these consultations, we shared our plans, hopes and concerns regarding the security threat that we currently face.

‘From the consultations, the stakeholders reached a consensus that it is important for the Commission to place a high premium on securing the lives of registrants and staff, as well as the protection of the expensive registration equipment to be deployed for the exercise.

‘Consequently, they advised that the Commission should adopt a graduated approach to the CVR exercise by starting online. After appraising the situation, the exercise can then proceed physically at State and LGA offices before finally deploying to all the 2,673 centres nationwide.

‘Based on this advice, the Commission decided to adopt a roll-out and roll-back approach to the exercise such that the registration centres will not only be accessible but safe and secure. After careful consideration of these suggestions, the Commission has decided to modify the schedule for the CVR as follows: commencement of online registration only through the INEC registration portal, June 28.

‘Commencement of scheduled appointments for online registrants in INEC state and Local Governments offices nationwide and commencement of physical CVR in INEC state and LGA offices on July 19 and commencement date of physical CRV at all the 2,673 registration centres to be determined based on evaluation of security situation in the areas,’ he said.

Giving more explanations on the CVR, Prof Yakubu, said: ‘We are now ready to resume the CVR on Monday next week. We have acquired all the equipment for the exercise, updated our registration software and planned for the deployment of 5,346 staff to the 2,673 registration centres nationwide. Among the equipment for the exercise is a new registration machine called the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED).

“This device is built around the concept of a Tablet computer and will replace the lap-top based old Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM). I am glad to say that our engineers designed the IVED in-house before it was fabricated abroad.

‘It is more mobile and efficient than the DDCM and could also be deployed to other activities, particularly the accreditation of voters during elections. The new machine will be unveiled at this press conference.

‘In our determination to serve Nigerians better during the CVR, and in response to repeated calls by stakeholders, the Commission is introducing a dedicated portal for online registration.

‘The idea is for intending registrants to commence the process online by filling the forms and uploading their pictures and required documents, and then make an appointment on the web portal for a date and time to visit an INEC State or Local Government Area (LGA) office to give their fingerprints and complete the registration.

‘In addition, those who are already registered as voters can carry out all the other activities such as transfers, correction of personal details and replacement of damaged or defaced Permanent Voters‚Äô Cards (PVCs) online.

‘We hope that through this portal, we shall reduce overcrowding at our registration centres, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, make the registration processes generally easier, thereby giving Nigerians a pleasant electoral experience.

‘The portal will go live in the early hours of Monday, June 28, 2021. However, I must quickly reiterate that online registration is a public service and therefore free of charge. There is no INEC-approved cybercafe, no online registration centre and no scratch card to be purchased for the exercise.

‘All you need is a device, including your mobile phones, that can connect to the internet. Citizens can complete the online pre-registration anywhere and at any time they choose. Just follow the simple but detailed step-by-step procedure on the portal and contact the INEC Help Desk where necessary. The details are on our website,’ he said.

The electoral umpire boss equally played down the challenges that may be encountered deploying technology, assuring: ‘On this note, let me allay the fears expressed by some Nigerians that many citizens may be disenfranchised by the new digital arrangement.

‘The Commission is aware that not all Nigerians have computers, smartphones, access to the internet or residing in urban and suburban areas.

‘Some citizens may also have one form of disability or another to make it impossible for them to register online. The Commission is also aware of its responsibility under the law to provide every eligible Nigerian with the opportunity to register irrespective of where they live or other circumstances of life.

‘I wish to assure you that in addition to the online registration portal, there will be some 2,673 centres where citizens can register physically nationwide. Furthermore, the exercise will be carried out continuously over a period of at least one year thereby providing enough time for the Commission to reach all the nooks and crannies of the country. No eligible Nigerian will be disenfranchised,’ he said.

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