By Disun Amosun
In the face of conflicting signals emanating from the House of Representatives last week’s resolution calling on INEC to extend the period of the voters registration exercise by 60 days minimum and the Electoral Commission’s seeming resistance, the two critical stakeholders in the nation’s electoral process met Tuesday night to work out an acceptable compromise that will ensure the exercise reach a level that will make the 2023 general elections credible.
Briefing newsmen after Wednesday’s plenary on the highlights of the meeting, Chairman House Committee on Electoral Matters, Rep Aisha Dukku while underscoring the importance of the need for the extension of the voters registration exercise in order not to disenfranchise Nigerians of voting age, said INEC agreed in principle to meet in Council, discuss the House resolution and come out to inform Nigerians on how long the Commission will be able to extend the deadline for the registration exercise.
She said the Commission tabled it’s constraints, some of them Constitutional and others backed by provisions of the new Electoral Act, why it would not go the whole hog of 60 days extension for the voters registration exercise as demanded by the House.
She said “going by the unprecedented surge of Nigerians to get registered to vote in subsequent elections and based on the motion passed for the extension of the exercise, INEC recognised the dire need for such move, but other equally important exercises that are time bound and backed by the operating electoral laws such as Compilation, Cleaning-up and Display of the voters Register, Printing and distribution of electoral materials which are all time bound and must be concluded 90 days before the commencement of the general election.
Rep Dukku however called on INEC to, no matter what, do all it could to capture as many Nigerians as possible on the voters register within the best available time without compromising functions it had to perform towards making the general elections credible and acceptable.
On the issue of underage voter registration, the mover of the motion and spokesman of the House, Rep Benjamin Kalu in his aspect of the briefing said the Electoral Commission alluded to the unwholesome practice and assured the House that INEC now has the capacity and technology to detect the practice and that no matter the number of under aged registered or involved in multiple registration, they would be detected and weeded out of the final voters register.
Kalu said while not speaking for INEC, the Commission made it known at the meeting that of the 46% of invalid registration it recorded, underage issues constitute a high percentage thereby underscoring the need to timely clean up the voters register before next year’s general election.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting between the House Committee on Electoral Matters and INEC, reports from the social and conventional media had been portraying INEC as being reluctant to extend the registration deadline by 60 days, even to the extent of challenging a court order stopping it from ending the ongoing registration on the 30th June 2022.