By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has projected that the registered voters in the country might increase by about 10 million to over 80 million by 2019.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the prediction at a roundtable organised by the European Union Electoral Follow-up Mission to Nigeria and West Africa, held in Abuja.
A statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi on Sunday in Abuja, noted that the roundtable was also attended by Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders.
Yakubu speaking on the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) said that no fewer than 3.2 million Nigerians had been register in addition to the 70 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections.
According to him, the credibility of election depends on the credibility of the Voter Register. We are now doing it continuously. We have seen some challenges and we are responding to them.
“We started in April and as at last week, and we have registered 3.2 million Nigerians on top of the 70 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections that we had before.
“Our projection is that the Voter Register will probably be over 80 million by 2019,” Yakubu said.
He also revealed that about eight million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were yet to be collected by their respective owners.
“We haven’t made much progress in the last two years, but we have made elaborate arrangements with the states to ensure that the cards are collected.”
Giving a summary of the Commission’s preparations towards the 2019 general elections, Yakubu said that INEC would come up with a figure of the cost for 2019 general elections hopefully by next week.
According to the chairman, the commission have a Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021 and a Strategic Programme of Action.
“We have just completed the draft Election Project Plan for 2019,” he said.
Yakubu said that as at today, INEC had conducted elections into 172 constituencies since the 2015 general elections.
“The last election was three weeks ago in Gombe, the next election will come up in eight days time in Sokoto, followed by the Anambra governorship elections.
“We have issued the timetable for Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.”
Yakubu said that in Bayelsa in January 2016, INEC combined accreditation and voting simultaneously, adding that it was well received and has been going on very well.
Also speaking on the Nov. 18, Anambra governorship election, Yakubu reinstated that the governorship election would be combined with the Idemili North state constituency election.
According to him, all arrangements – logistics, staff training, and security are already in place, while nine out of the 14 activities lined up for the governorship poll had executed.
On expressed fears that the security agencies could postpone the election at the last minute, the INEC Chairman observed that the responsibility of securing the environment before, during and after elections was not within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
He said be that at it may INEC would continue to maintain a close relationship with all security agencies through the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
He said that was why the commission had also decided to issue the timetable and schedule of activities well ahead of all elections.
“In Anambra, we issued the timetable in February for an election that will take place in November. We have done the same for Ekiti and Osun.
“We have taken care, in both cases, to avoid party politics, national festivals and students’ examinations.
“The last (governorship) election in Ekiti took place on June 14, but June next year is likely to coincide with the fasting period and Salah.
“Since the law says that we should conduct the election at least 30 days to the end of the tenure (of the incumbent), we shifted it to July when there is no festival or examination.
“The same for Osun – instead of August 4, we’ll conduct the election in September.
“Interestingly in Osun’s case, we have given a one-year notice and we have always made copies of the timetable and schedule of activities available to the security agencies,” he said.
On party primaries, Yakubu alluded to the Electoral Act, which provides that once the national headquarters of a political party recommends a candidate to the Commission for election, the Commission could not reject such candidate.
“I think it was an amendment to the Electoral Act, borne out of our previous experience where the Commission with the security agencies were disqualifying candidates.
“The power was taken from the Commission and given back to the political parties.
“The parties have a role to play in strengthening our political processes.
“Yesterday’s solution has apparently become today’s problem because the political parties are now abusing the process.”
The chairman said that INEC look forward to whatever it could do to engage with stakeholders and the National Assembly.
He said that was not with the intention to have the power brought back to the Commission, but in such a manner that could address some of the issues and challenges being witnessed.
He warned that wherever a political party comes out openly to raise funds beyond the limits provided for in the Constitution, the Commission will apply sanctions.”