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Cautious Optimism as INEC Prepare for Anambra Polls

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Moshood Isah

It’s at least cheering news that prospective voters are willing to come out and be registered to vote in the upcoming elections in Anambra state as citizen observation reports that the just concluded Continuous Voters Registration witnessed an encouraging turnout.

The decentralized Continuous Voters Registration to ward Registration centers in Anambra State was conducted in the 326 wards to update the voter Register with the registration of citizens who turned 18 after the last voter registration exercise; or those who couldn’t register in previous CVR exercises.

Uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) will be distributed during the exercise as well issues relating to the transfer of registered voters lost or omitted PVCs will be addressed during the exercise. More so, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) successfully launched its new Direct Data Capturing machine which it said will be faster and more effective.

The CVR process in Anambra can be tagged a relative success as the commission was able to successfully deploy its staff to all the 326 wards of the state and there was hardly any report relating to non-opening of any ward centre.  The DDC machine introduced by the commission was also said to have worked efficiently to a very large extent even as the time frame for using the DDC machine was pegged at between 2-5mins. This means all things being equal, an estimate of 20 people can be registered within an hour while at least 120 prospective voters should go through the DDC by the end of the 6 hours allotted for the CVR daily. This scenario could even better during elections as voters will only go through the Card reader and voters register before casting their votes. Luckily for the commission and indeed all Nigerians, accredited observers confirmed that the machine worked throughout the day in over 80 percent of the 226 CVR wards visited.

INEC officials during the Anambra CVR can get a pass mark as there was hardly any report on the violation of the electoral process during the entire 5-day exercise as officials to a large extent ensures they confirmed the registration status of registrants before registering them. This basically means, there was basically no room for comprise when it comes to double registration or registration of under-aged voters.

While the collection of Permanent Voters Card is relatively low probably due to inability to collect by proxy, the issuance of Temporary Voters Card immediately after registration was well above 80percent. This basically means INEC printing machines were up and doing throughout the registration process. This again counts as a big plus for the commission even though the availability of PVC before the November elections remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, there have always been debates on the accessibility of public venues for people with disability as it is pertinent to carry everyone along with processes of public interest. In this vein, it’s cheering to know that virtually all the CVR centres in Anambra state are accessible to everyone regardless of physical characteristics. More so, there were INEC officials on the ground who understands the local language to through people with English language barriers. This is encouraging and should be replicated in every ward and polling units in the country.

The expectation remains high, optimism remains cautious as INEC prepares for yet another litmus test having the 2019 general elections in mind. Timing has become a very serious issue in public domains as it was obvious during the just concluded CVR in Anambra. Observation showed that an average of 50percent of the 225 centres opened at the stipulated 9 am. While every minute lost cannot be regained, the late arrival of election officials always leads to some kind of suspicion.

Finally and most importantly, nobody will go out to vote in a volatile environment. There were reports that some suspected members of Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB) chased INEC officials and everyone away from Okpoko II registration ward at Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state. Also, the attack on St Philip’s Catholic Church, Amakwa Ozubulu, in Ekwusogo Local Government Area of Anambra State also leaves more questions than answers regarding dire state of public safety and emergency services in Nigeria.

In this vein, there is has to be improved synergy between INEC and other security agencies to ensure adequate security of voters before, during and after elections.

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