The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ondo State announced it would not extend the Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) exercise as demanded by some stakeholders in the State.
Segun Agbaje, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the State, disclosed this on Monday evening while fielding questions from a SaharaReporters correspondent in Akure.
The exercise, which began on Wednesday and ended on Sunday, has generated lots of furor among stakeholders in the electoral process of the State who are calling for its extension.
The exercise is meant for eligible voters who have reached the age of 18 years and others who could not register in the previous exercise carried out in the State, the electoral umpire said.
Mr. Agbaje told SaharaReporters that the commission would not be able to extend the exercise, noting that INEC sufficiently publicized the exercise throughout print and electronic media in Ondo State.
“We are not going to extend the Continuous Voters’ Registration exercise because a lot of awareness was carried out both in the electronic and print media for the purpose of the exercise.
“This awareness was done in the English and Yoruba languages and I was even told from the publicity unit that it was also carried out in some local languages for the understanding of our people,” he said.
He condemned politicians and political party leaders who were importing crowds and voters from outside the State for the exercise, adding that the commission would detect such an influx.
The REC further told SaharaReporters that the commission would be willing to publish names and photographs of those who might have engaged in double registration during the five-day exercise.
“Definitely, the consequences attract jail terms as stipulated in the electoral act or huge fines,” Mr. Agbaje told our correspondent.
Stakeholders have said extending the CVR exercise would enable eligible voters who could not register within the stipulated period to do so and get enlisted.
Some of these stakeholders who spoke with SaharaReporters in Akure stated that many eligible voters who have reached the voting age were yet to be registered, adding that it would be “unfair” to unjustly deny such people the right to exercise their franchise on Election Day.
“INEC should extend the period of the exercise because we have many people who are eligible and yet to be registered. It would be unfair to unjustly deny them the right to vote,” one of them said.
A SaharaReporters correspondent in the State had observed that the election wards lacked adequate equipment to complete the exercise, including computers used to register voters.
“At some wards in Sijuwade, Oluwatuyi and Ijoka areas, INEC officials repeatedly complained about faulty equipment including flat battery of the mini-laptop system used during the registration exercise.
“This same excuse caused long queues in major political wards and areas visited in the State capital, as many of the eligible voters battled to get enlisted in the voting register under the scorching sun,” our correspondent said in his report.
The commission was, however, silent on these problems when confronted by our correspondent during the interview.
Over the weekend, the embattled Governor Olusegun Mimiko and the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Eyitayo Jegede, had, in a separate reaction called for the extension of the exercise following repeated complaints from eligible voters.
The Ondo State gubernatorial election is slated for November 26, 2016.