Commentary: The Need To Register To Vote

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WRITTEN BY EMEKA ARINZE
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday in Anambra state, started one of the most critical phases in its ongoing preparations for the 2019 General Elections.

The Commission began conducting the Continuous Voter Registration Exercise in the state. CVR is an exercise meant for the registration of citizens who turned 18 years of age after the last registration exercise or those who, for one reason or another, could not register in the previous exercises.
According to information gathered, the main activities during the ongoing voter registration are Fresh Registration, Transfer of Voters, and Distribution of Permanent Voter Card. The Continuous Voter Registration exercise, which had started earlier in other states, is taking place at the INEC local government offices and designated centres in Anambra state between 9am and 3pm daily, excluding weekends and public holidays.
It is noteworthy that the voter registration is not an all-comers affair. According to the electoral law, to be eligible for CVR, a person must be a citizen of Nigeria and must have attained the age of 18 years, on or before the registration day; must be above 18 years and unable to register in any of the previous registration exercises; must be resident in, work in or originate from the Local Government Area or Ward covered by the Registration Area Centre.
The registration is done in person and not by proxy: Anyone who wishes to register must appear in person at the CVR Centre of registration. Multiple registrations are not allowed. A Voter can only register in one registration centre. If the voter resides in more than one constituency, he/she must choose only one location to register in order to avoid double registration, which is an offence punishable by law. A person who relocated to another place, outside the constituency in which he registered, cannot vote in his new location unless he transfers his registration. Underage registration is a crime punishable under the law, too. Registration Officers are to give priority and support to vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, the aged, infirm, pregnant and nursing mothers.
Registration is a pre-requisite for exercising the right to vote. Those who do not have PVCs and whose names are not in the register of voters will not be allowed to vote on the Election Day. This is the crux of the matter. Many Nigerians complain about mis-representation or bad governance in the country. Such persons need to know that one of the ways to effect leadership change in a democracy is by voting during elections.
Thus, to vote leaders of their choice, they must register ahead of elections and must come out to exercise their franchise when the need arises. It is important for the electorate to note that the PVC, apart from giving them opportunity to vote, is also a means of identification for business transactions.
Politics, no doubt, is a game of numbers. So far, statistics on INEC voter registration show that South East has the least of registered voters among other geo-political zones in the country. This calls for serious concern among political elites, religious, traditional, market and social leaders among us. The shocking statistics should be a serious wakeup call on Ndigbo. Hence, the need to galvanize all strategies to tune up the number of voters in this clime as the next general election is barely one year ahead.
It is even more shocking to realize that there are 7.8 million Permanent Voter Cards whose owners are yet to collect them from INEC offices nationwide? Yet, during elections many of these people will be complaining of ineptitude and disenfranchisement. The current CVR exercise is another opportunity for those who have previously registered but are yet to collect their PVCs to do so. Those who have collected their PVCs must guard it jealously. They must handle it with care as it contains an antenna which, if damaged, will make the card unreadable by the INEC Smart Card Reader.

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