Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press
1. I am indeed very glad to address you today on the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR). As you are aware, the Register of Voters is at the heart of democratic elections. A good register of voters is a precursor to a good election. For this reason, the registration of voters is a major function of the Independent National Electoral Commission under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). In exercising its powers under the law, the Commission undertook a fresh registration of eligible voters with every General Election until 2011 when the first reliable biometric register of voters was compiled. Thereafter, the Commission embarked on intermittent registration of voters on the eve of major elections. However, in April 2017, this Commission for the first time began the implementation of registration of voters on a continuous basis as provided in the Electoral Act. As a result, 14,283,734 new voters were added to the register by the time the process was suspended in August 2018 in order to prepare for the 2019 General Election.
2. In the aftermath of the General Election, the Commission was involved in several post-election activities, particularly litigations and the conduct of supplementary and re-run elections. In addition, two major off-season Governorship elections were conducted in Bayelsa and Kogi States. As I informed Nigerians in my last press conference two months ago, the intention of the Commission was to resume the CVR early in 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated a fundamental review of our processes, it was not possible to do so. Subsequently, the Commission fixed the first quarter of 2021 for the resumption of the exercise. However, some of the activities that the Commission planned to implement in 2020, which would precede the resumption of the CVR, could not be concluded due to the pandemic. One of them is the expansion of voter access to Polling Units. The idea is to make new Polling Units available to voters during the CVR. The work has been completed and all the 176,846 Polling Units can now be viewed in a searchable database on the INEC website (https://www.inecnigeria.org/elections/polling-units/). Consequently, the earlier announced date for the resumption of the CVR i.e. Monday 28th June 2021 remains sacrosanct.
3. Let me seize this opportunity to once again thank all Nigerians for the support given to the Commission during the month-long consultations on expansion of voter access to Polling Units, as well as in the actual process of converting the Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements into independent Polling Units which was accomplished in just four months after 25 years of several unsuccessful attempts. We are confident that the new Polling Units will guarantee better access to voters during elections. The successful conclusion of exercise is a testimony to what the Commission and stakeholders can achieve when we work together in productive partnership.
4. 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.
5. In our determination 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’ 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 28th June 2021. However, I must quickly reiterate that the 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 anytime 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.
6. 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, smart phones, access to the internet or residing in urban and sub-urban 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 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.
7. 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’s 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 a careful consideration of these suggestions, the Commission has decided to modify the schedule for the CVR as follows:
10. I want to appeal for the understanding and support of Nigerians, especially those who have been keenly awaiting the resumption of the CVR. This is a situation beyond the control of the Commission, given our determination to ensure that electoral activities are conducted in a conducive atmosphere of freedom and safety.
11. For emphasis, I wish to state that the registration exercise will be for the following categories of Nigerians:
- Those who are 18 years and above and have not registered previously.
- Registered voters who have had any problem during accreditation for any past election, with either their Permanent Voters’ Cards or their fingerprints not being read by the Smart Card Reader.
- Registered voters who want to transfer their voting location from one place to another.
- Registered voters who want to correct issues with their data, such as misspelt names, dates of birth, etc.
- Registered voters whose PVCs are lost or damaged.
12. Ladies and Gentlemen, for an exercise of this nature to be successful, testing our state of readiness and the integrity of the new technology are cardinal aspects of our preparations. In addition to our in-house tests, it is my pleasure to invite the media here present to participate in a mock registration exercise at our Media Centre immediately after this press conference so that you can see first-hand how the portal is going to work when it goes live on Monday next week.
13. Before I conclude, let me also add that we are making available to the media several materials on the CVR for dissemination to Nigerians. The Commission believes that together we can continue to improve our capacity to routinely deliver free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in Nigeria.
14. I thank you all as always and may God bless our efforts.