Election Observer group, Yiaga Africa has expressed worry over prevailing insecurity challenges trailing the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in Anambra State.
It also raised concerns over poor deployment of security personnel at the registration centres in the state, as well as abysmal low participation of political parties in the process, particularly at the first two weeks of the process.
In a statement signed by its Director of Programs, Cynthia Mbamalu, the group noted that no security officials were seen in over half of the CVR centres visited despite Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) guideline for deployment of security personnel across registration centres.
It also regretted restrictions of its Watching The Voters (WTV) accredited officials from observing the process, particularly in Orumba South Local Government Area of the State.
The statement partly reads: “The reports of absence of security personnel at some of the registration centres is worrying given the different security concerns across most states of the Federation and the previous attacks to some INEC offices and properties in some LGA’s.
“A major finding from the observation in the first two weeks of the process is the poor deployment of security personnel at the registration centres. As reported by the WTV observers, while an average of 4 INEC registration officials was seen across most of the registration centres in the first and second week, no security officials were seen in over half of the CVR centres visited.
“For instance, there were no security officials in 26 of the 44 registration centres, in 11 of the 23 centres in Rivers State and in Anambra state in 7 of the centres visited. The INEC guideline on the CVR exercise had provided for the need for deployment of security personnel across the registration centres.
“More so, the INEC’s guidelines stipulate that at least two security officials should be stationed at each registration centre at all times during the registration hours. This is crucial in order to forestall any plan to disrupt the process.
“Yiaga Africa observed the abysmally low participation of political parties in the CVR process indicated in the absence of political party-specific citizens mobilisation activities to increase participation and the absence of political party agents in the registration centres.
“Interestingly, while political parties are actively engaging in political permutations towards the 2023 general elections, they are failing in that important role of mobilising citizens to actively engage the CVR.
“This is also seen in absence of voter education activities either through media engagement via traditional media channels or on social media. In addition, political parties are only deploying their agents to very few CVR centres to observe the CVR exercise.
“From the 158 registration centres that WTV visited in the first and second week of the CVR, only 40 centres had political party agents present.”
While commending INEC over reasonable progress recorded so far, including consistency with providing updated data on the online pre-registration exercise, particularly at the first and second weeks of the process, Yiaga Africa called for improved collaboration of security agencies with INEC to ensure adequate deployment of personnel to the centres.
Yiaga also called on Nigerians to take advantage of the exercise to register to vote and ensure their data were properly captured in the voter register for their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to be produced ahead of the next elections.
“As the exercise continues, we call on INEC to ensure proper oversight over the process. Proper oversight will reasonably address the issue like the clarity on procedure for the registration of citizens who have commenced the process online and prospective voters who are accessing the process for the first time.
“In addition, it will ensure adequate technical support is provided to assist the officials especially in the use of the IVED throughout the registration process.
“The full biometric capture of registrants is a crucial part of the registration process and must be done optimally in this phase of the CVR to achieve one of the core objectives of deploying technology to register voters.
“This is particularly important with the plan by INEC to improve on the deployment of technology to accredit voters on election day.
“Security agencies should collaborate better with INEC to ensure adequate deployment of their personnel to the voter registration centres. Political Parties should adopt the election cycle approach and ensure the deployment of their agents to oversee the registration process.
“The continuous voter registration process is a critical aspect of elections and parties whose sole interest is to win elections should adopt a voter engagement strategy that commences with engaging prospective voters during the voter registration process and also observing the process,” the group stressed.