By Yomi Kareem
Amid the extension in the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general, which gave political parties six more days to conduct their primaries, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to extend the deadline for voter registration to give more time for eligible Nigerians to exercise their right to participation the same way the electoral body has extended the deadline for party primaries.
Against its earlier stance, the INEC last week extended the deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties by six days, from June 3 to June 9. Also, the online pre-registration ends by 30th May 2022, while the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration, CVR, ends by 30th June 2022.
In the letter dated 28th May 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said; “Voters are also critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their own government.”
According to SERAP, “Extending the voter registration deadline would provide more time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people living with disability, as well as those resident in states facing security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections.”
The organization maintained that extending the deadline for voter registration would be entirely consistent with constitutional and international standards, and the Electoral Act. And that any such extension would also not impact negatively on the INEC’s election calendar and activities.
Adding that INEC,s mandates ought to be exercised in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. Stressing that; “If voting is as important as the INEC always claims it is, now is the time to show that Nigerian voters will be treated equally and fairly. The future of Nigeria’s democracy depends on it.”
The letter, read in part: “The INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.
“Enforcing unrealistic voter registration deadline while extending the deadline for party primaries would deny and abridge the constitutional and international human rights of eligible voters including to equal treatment and equal protection, and non-discrimination.”
SERAP stated that it would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. And that If the Organization have not heard from INEC by then, it shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel the electoral umpire to comply with its request in the public interest.