The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is introducing a new voter registration equipment and technology that will better serve Nigerians, even as the Commission announced that the Continuous Voter Registration Exercise (CVR) will recommence on Monday 28th June 2021 nationwide.
Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure during a Press briefing held at the Commission’s Headquarters in Abuja, today.
Addressing newsmen, the INEC Chairman explained that though the Commission had intended to recommence the exercise soon after the 2019 general elections but was made impossible largely due to the usual post-election preoccupations of the Commission and the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
He further explained that the Commission had earlier assured Nigerians that the exercise would recommence in the first quarter of 2021, but this plan was delayed by three cardinal reasons. According to the INEC Chairman, one of such reason is the establishment of new systems that would ensure safer CVR exercise in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said “In this regard, the Commission is building a new online registration portal that would enable new registrants to commence registration online and subsequently complete the capture of their biometric data at designated registration centres. This is designed to reduce crowding. Through the online portal, they can schedule their visits to the registration centres to suit their convenience”.
He continued “above all, a CVR Locator is integrated into the new portal which will enable online registrants to locate the nearest registration centre available to them to complete their registration. Previously, registered voters who wished to transfer their voting locations, apply for replacement of their PVCs or correct their personal information had to appear physically at the registration centres. The development of this portal, which is being done in-house by our engineers, has taken a little more time to complete than the Commission anticipated”.
The second reason advanced by Professor Yakubu, is the Commission’s determination to expand voter access to Polling Units. His words, “recently the Commission embarked on a nationwide engagement with Nigerians in which we raised the fundamental issue of declining voter access to Polling Units across the country. The engagement clearly demonstrated that the existing Polling Units are inadequate. They were initially designed to cater for a projected 50 million voters but presently serve over 84 million voters”.
He continued “in addition, many of the Polling Units are inaccessible to voters, especially Persons with Disability (PWDs), and are not conducive to implementing the Commission’s election regulations, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are glad that most Nigerians agree with the Commission on this issue, and we have commenced a far-reaching programme of converting Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements into full-fledged Polling Units and relocating poorly situated Polling Units to better locations. The Commission needs more time to complete this exercise, so that the new Polling Units will be available for registrants to choose during the CVR exercise”.
The final reason for the delayed recommencement of the CVR according to the INEC Chairman is the introduction of new registration technology, which requires time for development and procurement of hardware. He said “the Commission has decided to introduce a new voter registration equipment and technology. The present generation of voter registration equipment, which the Commission introduced in 2011, is the Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM). This is based on a laptop and a series of peripherals connected to it. In addition, it includes large powerpacks to power the laptops in the field”.
He noted, “while the DDCMs have served the Commission well over the last 10 years, we believe that there are now more compact registration devices that will better serve Nigerians during the CVR exercise. The Commission is therefore migrating to the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), which is based on an Android tablet.
“The procurement of the new devices, the modification of the registration software by our in-house engineers to make it compatible with the Android Operating System, as well as integrating these with the online registration portal require a little more time. For instance, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners abroad who manufacture the IVED hardware, are not operating at full capacity and the pandemic has also made the supply chain and delivery much slower”.
Speaking further on the date for the recommencement the exercise, the INEC Chairman said “in consideration of these challenges and the measures we have taken to overcome them, the Commission is now in a position to announce Monday 28th June 2021 as the date for the recommencement of the CVR exercise nationwide.
The following critical activities will be accomplished within the following timelines leading to the recommencement of the exercise. They are; expansion of voter access to Polling Units – 11th May 2021, Building and testing the online registration Portal – 15th May 2021, Arrival of the new generation of registration devices – the IVED – 31st May 2021, Recruitment and training of Voter Enrolment Staff – 14th June 2021, and Restart of CVR – 28th June 2021”.
Professor Yakubu declared that “effective from Monday 28th June 2021, the CVR exercise will commence nationwide and carried out continuously for over a year until the third quarter of 2022. However, emphasis will initially be on Anambra State where more centres will be established in view of the Governorship election already scheduled for Saturday 6th November 2021. In order to complete preparations for the Governorship election, the CVR exercise in the State will be temporarily suspended in August 2021”.
“This will enable the Commission to clean up the data for the State and print the PVCs for registrants. As time goes on, the Commission will provide more details on the CVR exercise, particularly the innovations that will ensure a safe and stress-free experience for registrants. In doing so, we will fully consult stakeholders. In fact, the first in the series of these consultations will take place after the Easter break, he added.