The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos State has appealed to civil society organisations (CSOs) to be at the vanguard of voter education and sensitisation to curb voter apathy and deepen democracy
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Sam Olumekun, made this plea on Thursday at a workshop for CSOs organised in partnership with the African Youths Initiative on Crime Prevention (AYICRIP) in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the one-day workshop on the “Role of Civil Society Organisations and the Youth in the Mobilisation of Citizens for Electoral Participation and Education in Commemoration of the United Nations International Youth Day 2021.”
The theme is “The Fight Against Electoral Violence and Voter Apathy: The Role of Civil Society Organisations”.
Olumekun, who was represented by Mr James Popoola, INEC Administrative Secretary, said that no other time was more auspicious to have such workshop than now when INEC had commenced the dual CVR online and physical registration exercise.
He commended AYICRIP for being a worthy partner with the commission in sensitisation of voters, adding that INEC also partnered the group for the door-to-door sensitisations of voters in preparation for the 2019 General Elections.
“As partners in progress, you assist through your various platforms to encourage more Nigerians who are able to use the on-line portal for their pre-registration to do so in order to reduce congestion at the state and local government offices of the commission.
“As representatives of various Civil Society Organisations, you will no doubt play a crucial role in sensitising the people not only on how to register but on how to imbibe voter education and electoral information.
“INEC cannot do it alone, we therefore enjoin other relevant stakeholders in their own way to be vanguard of voter education.
“They should help to spread the electoral knowledge to others,” he said.
According to him, CVR exercise is only for those who are 18years and above and have not registered previously.
He said that registered voters who had had any problem during accreditation for any past election with either the Permanent Voters Cards or their fingerprints not being read by the Smart Card Reader could also come.
He added that registered voters who wanted to transfer their voting location from one place to another could also used the CVR window.
The INEC boss said that registered voters who wanted to correct issues with their data, such as misspelt names, dates of birth and others, and those whose PVCs had been lost or damaged could use the window.
Speaking, Mr Waheed Ishola, the Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Lagos State Directorate, said that INEC had been doing it own bit on voter education in collaboration with NOA and other critical stakeholders.
Ishola said: “It behoves on our youths who have always been complaining of being left out of the decision making process, to now take it upon themselves to get registered and take part in electoral process.”
He said that the workshop would further avail the CSOs opportunity to take the message back to their various constituencies so that participation in electoral process would further be enhanced.
Reacting, Mr Nelson Ekujumi from the Committee for the Protection of People’s Mandate said that the event was to enlighten Nigerians as well as to educate other CSOs on their roles to the society in engendering active citizens participation in elections.
Ekujumi added that the workshop was aimed at mitigating electoral violence, urging CSOs to swing into action towards addressing “the issues of voter apathy that has bedeviled elections in recent past”.
Earlier, Amb. Christogonus Ibe, the Founder/Executive Director, AYICRIP , said that citizens had roles in the fight against electoral violence and voter apathy as well as other forms of challenges and vices in the electoral system.
Ibe, who noted that though the world was marking the International Youth Day, the CSOs considered the greatest problem in the nation to be the electoral system which had thrown up bad leaders.
According to him, when the nation has a reformed electoral system and informed citizens, leaders that understand the plights of the citizens will emerge to tackle all other issues facing the masses.
He said that the group had monitored the ongoing CVR and discovered the lackadaisical attitude of most Nigerian youths, thereby disenfranchising themselves.
Ibe said: “It is Incumbent on all of us if we claim we are representatives of the people and voices of the people. Most of us are resting on our oars.
“It is time we came out of our comfort zones and start talking to the people, the need for them to register in the ongoing CVR, be equipped and be armed with their voter card because that is their strength.
“World over, the process of registration actually determines the outcomes of elections, not the votes itself. If citizens don’t register to vote, they will not have the right of opportunity to cast their votes.”
He urged CSOs to go back to churches, mosques, markets, streets, community, religious and professional organisations with economy-friendly programmes of sensitisation, saying that most Nigerians were no longer interested in the electoral system.
Mrs Briana Olson, the Political/ Economic Officer U.S. Consulate General in Lagos commended the CSOs’ role in electoral process, particularly in preventing electoral violence, voter apathy and engaging citizens.
She said that US shared a common interest with Nigeria in conducting peaceful, transparent and fair elections, which made Nigeria stronger and a more reliable partner of U.S.
She said that CSOs had a lot of duties to play including keeping voters engaged, increasing the participation of voters, monitoring election results as well as electoral malpractices.