Religious leaders in Cross River have urged the Independent National Electoral Commission in the state to include Churches and Mosques as registration points in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration.
They made the call on Monday in Calabar during a meeting of religious leaders with the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Frankland Briyai, organised by the Department of Voter Education and Publicity, Cross River office of the commission.
Reverend Father Ephraim Malachy of Calabar Catholic Diocese said INEC could capture hundreds of worshippers who did not have the time to visit registration centres.
He said, “I suggest that one of the ways to ensure that more people are registered is to take the registration to Churches on Sundays.
“There are many people that would not have the chance to register because of their busy schedule but if you come to the Church on Sunday, they would register.”
Malachy said the Catholic Church took the registration seriously by using every opportunity to remind members about the importance of voter registration.
A Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdulkadir Bature, also said that bringing the registration to Mosques during Juma’at prayers would encourage more people to register.
He said, “Include Mosques and Churches as registration points on Fridays and Sundays so that more people would register.
“It is the best way of making sure that everyone is registered because so many people are not ready to leave their businesses to go and register, but when they see people registering after the Juma’at prayers, they will follow.”
The resident electoral commissioner expressed happiness with the contributions of the religious leaders and assured them that the request would be conveyed to INEC Headquarter for approval.
He said, “I will make a special request for that to my chairman in Abuja and I will give you feedback as soon as possible. It is a good idea but as a commission established by an act of parliament, we have to do everything according to the law.”
Briyai disclosed that INEC in the state had earlier resorted to going to markets to register people, adding that it could comfortably register people in Churches and Mosques if given the permission.
“When we visited one of the markets here in Calabar, we registered as many as 600 people in a day, so that goes to show that many people are still not registered,” he said.
He appealed to the religious leaders to assist INEC in mobilising their followers to register as this was the only way they could exercise their right.
The REC also asked for prayers for a successful election in the state and Nigeria in 2019, adding that the commission was doing everything possible to ensure a peaceful election.
Leaders of various religious groups in the state including Christian Association of Nigeria, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, as well as Imams of different Mosques attended the meeting.