As part of its series of town-hall meetings focused on voter education across the northwest region; ahead of the 2019 election, last week Wednesday, the Organization for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) hosted a one day town-hall meeting on INEC’s new voting guidelines in Kano which was attended by election stakeholders including INEC, the police and members of the civil society.
The town-hall meeting was aimed at educating young voters on electoral processes and apprising election stakeholders on progress made in the transformation of the voting process, in respect of the forthcoming elections. It was organized in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.
Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for INEC in Kano Prof Riskuwa Shehu, while speaking on the progress made by INEC since the 2015 elections, said the election management body had created 2,658 additional polling units in Kano adding that unlike prior to the 2015 elections, when registration of new voters was done only around election periods, INEC had now introduced a system of continues voters registration which had afforded more eligible Nigerians the opportunity to register.
“In 2015, as a result of the large numbers [of registered voters] in some polling units, 2,658 additional voting points were created which gave us a total of 10,732 voting points during the 2015 general elections in Kano. After the election, for the first time, INEC embarked on continuous voters registration exercise which is against the earlier tradition of waiting until elections are around the corner; this has really helped us get more eligible Nigerians to register and vote,” said Shehu.
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“At the end of that registration exercise, and after reconciliation of the figures, the additional number of registered voters in Kano was 465,711. Now, when you look at this large numbers and considering at the fact that even in 2015 we had to create additional voting points, we are going to have additional 407 voting points on top of the 10,732 – which were in existence in 2015. This gives us a total of 11,229 voting points that will be in use for voting in the coming election,” he said.
Shehu said INEC had now created customized ballot papers for each of its polling units across the country which meant ballot papers from one polling unit cannot be used in another polling unit. In the same vain, he added, voters could now cast their vote immediately after accreditation since voting will now happen concurrently with accreditation, unlike before when a voter had to go and come back for voting, after accreditation.
Abdulrazaq Alkali, executive director of OCCEN, while speaking on the objective of the gathering said the idea behind the town-hall meeting in the period leading to the 2019 gubernatorial and presidential elections was to equip young voters with the right information to enable them understand that election was not a do or die affair; instead, an opportunity for them to utilize their voting power to choose the right leaders and not to allow themselves to be influenced by money or intimidation.
“The whole essence of this meeting is to bring together relevant stakeholders to discuss issues on voter education; the participants here are mostly members of the civil society who will take the information they acquire here and pass it over to their various constituencies. It is all about the 2019 gubernatorial and presidential elections; we want to prepare the minds of young voters to enable them understand that election is not a do or die affair; it’s the right time for them to use their voting power to choose the right leaders and not allow themselves to be influenced by money or intimidation, “Alkali said.
Also speaking at the event, Abba Kyari Yunusa, representative of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), said holding election was one of the major responsibilities of the government one that involves everyone across the country adding that, in the build up to the 2019 elections, NOA’s major public enlightenment and sensitization campaign centered around 3 major issues: campaign against invalid votes, vote buying and peaceful election.
The representative of the commissioner of police in Kano state, ACP AA Shika, said the police had a very vital role to play in the forthcoming elections and assured of the Nigerian police’s neutrality in the process. “We are not going to be partisan and whoever violates the law, the law will take its course against him.”
“Nobody will come to the polling unit in the name of vote buying because we are going to deploy as many men of the police as possible. That will go a long way in discouraging whoever intends to buy votes at the polling units and voters have to go meters away from the polling units to cast their votes. We will arrest and prosecute whoever is caught buying votes; we are going to dislodge them and we are deploying four officers to each polling unit,” said Shika.