The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the deadline for voter registration in Nigeria.
This, the electoral commission, said would “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”.
The INEC made a U-turn last week by suddenly extending 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 May 30, 2022, while the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ends by June 30, 2022.
In the letter dated May 28, 2022, and signed by SERAP’s 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.
“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.
“Extending the deadline for voter registration would be entirely consistent with constitutional and international standards, and the Electoral Act. Any such extension would also not impact negatively on the INEC’s election calendar and activities.
“INEC mandates ought to be exercised in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. 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 also 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.
“The public perception of the independence and impartiality of INEC is essential for building public confidence in the electoral process, and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections. Where Nigerians have doubts about the independence and impartiality of INEC, they are more likely to have less confidence in the electoral process thereby undermining democracy.
“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 equal treatment and equal protection, and non-discrimination.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The recommended extension would also bolster voter confidence in the electoral process, and the ability of INEC to discharge its constitutional and statutory responsibilities independently and impartially.
“Extending the deadline for voter registration would also be justified, given reports of challenges in the voter registration exercise, especially for young people, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, and those resident in states facing security challenges and living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.”