Over 30m voters yet to be registered, 20m others denied PVCs


Intersociety, a civil society organisation (CSO) based in Onitsha, Anambra State, has raised alarm that millions of Nigerians risk being denied registration as voters in the scheduled 2023 general elections. Their very revealing submissions led by Emeka Umeagbalasi, form the basis of this report.

It is the authoritative position of the Int’l Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) that no fewer than 30 million citizens of Nigeria involving those in 18 years and above have been denied registration as ‘registered voters’ by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the all-important 2023 Presidential Election. We make bold to say that non-capturing of these 30 million Nigerian citizens or more is ill-conceived and politically motivated.

This is more so when INEC has inexplicably and suspiciously shut down its online fresh/new voters’ registration portal, thereby shutting out millions of computer literate prospective registrants and forcing millions of others into frustration and registration centre accessibility hardships. Denying eligible citizens, irrespective of their tribe, religion, gender and class, their rights to vote (political participation and inclusion) is a serious violation of their fundamental human rights. Such chaotic denial also constitutes a serious threat to local, national, regional and international peace and security. It is a serious violation of the citizens’ constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and association and freedom from discrimination and their counterpart provisions in the Int’l Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of UN 1976 (ratified by Nigeria in 1993) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights of 1981 (ratified and domesticated by Nigeria in 1983).

Our informed position is according to available national and international demographic statistics. According to the current United Nations population statistics including the Worldometer (world’s live statistics on population, economy and so on), Nigeria’s estimated population as at June 25 this year is 216,225,495 or 216.5m, out of which 55% or about 120m represent those in 18 years and above. By INEC’s recent official statistics tracked in several print and online media, the total registered voters in the country as at February 2019 was 84m with a fraction of others captured between July 2016 and December 2021. INEC also recently announced that as at May this year, it had registered 10.2m Nigerians, out of which 6.5m were successfully captured; with 4.5m being youths in 19 and 34 age bracket.

By official INEC’s account, no fewer than 20m registered voters have been denied their Permanent Voters Cards by the Commission. We have also circumstantially found that an estimated total of 10m others presently contained in Nigeria’s National Register of Voters are strongly suspected to still bear the identities of minors and allowed illegal aliens. In other words, the present National Register of Voters still bears roguish outlook and can only be credible, nationally acceptable across religious and ethnic divides and factored in coherence with the Commission’s newly acquired and imputed ‘Voter’s Enrolment Device (IReV)’ and ‘Bimodal Voter’s Accreditation System (BVAS)’ when it is cleansed and rid of the estimated over 10m minors and aliens and updated to accommodate the 30m eligible but unregistered Nigerians. Therefore, the current National Register of Voters for 2023 Presidential/General Elections can only be widely or country-wide credible and acceptable if it is genuinely cleansed and rid of the 10m minors and illegal aliens and the dead and dormant citizens.

The National Register of Voters to be used in the forthcoming Presidential Election and auxiliary others must be that containing ‘110m-120m registered voters in Nigeria with at least 100m-110m PVCs holders’. This is against the present total of 64m PVC holders in Nigeria. The citizens’ strongly suspected double policies of the Commission whereby the Commission during Presidential Election applies two policies of strict application of its technologies especially its “Voters’ Enrolment Device (IReV) and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS)” (formerly Card Readers) in the South (especially Southeast, South-South and non-natives held areas of the Southwest) or administratively causes widespread failure of such technologies in the named Southern parts; and programmes same with widespread success frequency or substantial reversion to manual accreditation and voting in the North (i.e. Katsina, Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Niger, Bauchi, Jigawa, non-Southern Kaduna, Nasarawa, Kogi, Adamawa, Gombe) must stop and be discontinued. The INEC’s policies from registration of voters/issuance of their PVCs to the conduct of all elections in the country must fully reflect same policies, patterns and trends throughout the country.

From our recent field checks, estimated 20m unregistered voters are found in the South, out of which 10m eligible voters in the Southeast are yet to be captured by INEC. Estimated 4.5m others are yet to be captured in the South-South while 5.5m remain unregistered in the South-West. Many, if not most of those affected in the South-West are non-natives especially members of Igbo Ethnic Nationality residing in Lagos and Ogun States. Out of the 10m unregistered voters in the North, at least 40%-50% are non-northerners especially members of Igbo Ethnic Nationality; 35%-40% are non-Muslim northerners while remaining 10% belong to Muslim citizens. Apart from threats of violence from radical natives especially the Muslims, being responsible for widespread disenfranchisement of the named segment (pastoral Igbo citizens) of the population, they are further disenfranchised through deliberately created bureaucratic hitches including shrinking number of registration centres/polling booths in their held areas, inadequate number of INEC’s manpower and registration machines and malfunctioning of such machines. This is also the case during the issuance and collection of PVCs.

We further found from field checks across the country’s six geopolitical regions that “in the Southeast, out of every five prospective registrants in the queue at every INEC registration centre, only one is physically captured or registered; in the South-South, out of every five, only two are captured; in the South-West, out of every five in the native held areas, at least three are captured and in its non-native held areas (Igbo populated areas), out of every five, only one is captured. Also in the native Muslim held areas in the North, out of every five, four are captured; in the non-Muslim native held areas, out of every five, only two are captured; and in the non-native/non-Muslim held areas in the North including rural parts of the FCT, out of every five, only one is captured as a voter.

From random interviews we conducted in several quarters especially in the Southeast and some native quarters in the North and the South-West, it was found that several millions of eligible citizens have remained in their homes on account of the above highlighted bureaucratic hitches. Hundreds of thousands have gone to INEC registration centres several times without being captured or registered as voters forcing them back to their homes never to go again. These explain why INEC hurriedly and suspiciously shut down its online fresh/new registration portal since May 30, this year, leaving behind those involving revalidation, transfers and updating only.

There are 15 ways of rigging election and disfranchising citizens. These include shrinking delineation of constituencies, registration and voting centres targeted at a particular ethno-religious group on the grounds of their tribe or religion; inadequate manpower and machines for registration; malfunctioning of registration/voting machines; clandestine creation of registration and polling centres (flying registration/voting centres) across borders for capturing of aliens as registered voters/voters in Nigeria with intent to artificially out-populate other members of the legitimate population and manipulate the demographic and electoral figures, i.e. non-issuance or discriminatory issuance of PVCs to registered voters on the grounds of their ethnicity or religion; registration of minors and aliens as voters with intent to roguishly out-populate other legitimate members of the general population; official padding on continuous basis of the voting figures of particular ethno-religious members of a segment of the general voting population with intent to continuously out-populate others and rig elections particularly the presidential poll in favour of the appointing authorities or institutions or favoured another and organised violence against individual or group citizens seeking to be captured or registered as voters or voters proper so as to massively disenfranchise them on the grounds of their tribe and religion.

Yet others include militarisation of election arenas so as to frighten voters and scare them away on the grounds of their tribe and religion; instigation of group violence and other coordinated attacks against members of another voting population on the grounds of their faith and tribe for purpose of rigging them or their candidates out; system padding up of voting figures and inflation of results to favour another; system programmed failure of voting capturing machines targeted at opposition strong held areas for purpose of mass disenfranchisement of members of the affected voting population; application of strict procedures in the South during voters registration and PVC distribution and relaxation of same including use of proxies such as District Heads in the North; application of strict procedures during presidential election in the South and relaxation of same including use of manual voting protected by group militancy (using radical ethno-religious groups) and security forces in the North.

…Principal Officers of Intersociety who carried out the work are Emeka Umeagbalasi who is a criminologist, Chinwe Umeche who is a legal practitioner and Chidimma Udegbunam, another legal practitioner.