By Juliana Katung
Kaduna (Nigeria)-To vote and be voted for is a right of every citizen of Nigeria which cannot be taken away.
But what happens when there is a systematic move to deny or tamper with such right ?
Would this not amount to outright disenfranchisement by the nation’s electoral body denying thousands of eligible voters willing to register , but are being made to bear some difficulties?
This is the scenario created by the Independent National Electoral Commissio, INEC in the ongoing continuous registration of voters in parts of Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria.
Findings in the ongoing exercise by AFRICA PRIME NEWS revealed that those wishing to obtain voters card are facing untold hardships .
A situation where between 50 and 100 eligible voters are attended to, out of the over 1000 that turn out daily for the registration could be described as a crummy exercise .
The exercise which began nationwide on April 27, 2017 ahead of the 2019 elections was primarily to take place at the headquarters of the 774 local council areas and to end two months before the general polls.
302 additional registration centres were created nation wide on July 10 2017 with Kaduna having eight in order to address the challenges of congestion and far distances faced by eligible voters seeking to register.
Chikun local government area of Kaduna State with over 263 polling units with a reported large number of unregistered voters compare to other local council areas had only one center at Goni Gora added sometimes last year just for a while.
Those new centres only functioned till August 11, after which they were closed down. The centres were situated at Rigasa, Gonin Gora, Tudun Nupawa, Ungwan Shanu, Ladduga, Gidan Waya, Katugal and Kwarbai ‘B’.
Again, towards the end of last year, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, approved the creation of 10 additional centres for the continuous Voter Registration exercise in Kaduna state, the new centres took off from Monday, 18th December 2017, and are still operational for thirty working days but chikun was not among.
The reasons for the creation of those additional centres was to address areas with lnternally Displaced Persons, distance, difficult terrains and also for security purposes.
Affected local governments under this category were; Jema’a, Sanga, Kaura, Kajuru Kauru, Soba, Igabi, Kaduna South, Birni-Gwari and Lere.
The locations are: Zankan in Jema’a, Fadan Karshi in Sanga, Atakar in Kaura, Maru in Kajuru, Chawai in Kauru, Gamagira in Soba, Rigachikun in Igabi Ungwa-Sanusi in Kaduna South, Kuyello in Birnin-Gwari and Yar Kasuwa in Lere local government areas.
Presently, some local governments have three or four centres, while some councils including Chikun have no additional centres leaving them with no option than to converge in large numbers at their various council headquarters for the PVC registration.
People in such local governments cover long distance, face difficulties among other challenges in the process of getting registered.
A visit to Chikun revealed that some people in the area had to leave their homes as early as 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning in order to be among the first fifty people on the queue while others from far distance have to sleep in open places in order to beat time to get registered.
INEC official in their own wisdom have had to device means of given numbers to the first 100 people that appear at the center from 4 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock and to start the registration by 9 o’clock in order to reduce the congestion .
This has helped in reducing the population of people at the center in which only those people with numbers are attended to. But this also, inflicted hardship on the people that are coming from far distance as they could not be able to be there before 6 o’clock.
They are always left with no other option than to either sleep in the open or with friends or relatives for those who have.
Ayuba Joseph from Maraba Rido who narrated his experience said he stopped his job for two days just to ensure that him and his son who left school got registered, describing the whole process as frustrating.
According to him, Chikun council is one of the largest within the metropolis with large population compare to others councils, but it has no Continuous Voter Registration except at the local government headquarter using only two machines for the exercise.
Ayuba said he viewed the action of INEC as deliberate as there are over three additional centers in Kaduna South and North local government Areas, while Chikun with large number of population don’t have a single centre .
He called on the government and INEC to as a matter of equity and fairness, approve more centres in Chikun in order to reduce the congestion and difficulties faced by eligible voters seeking registration .
At a registration center by Barnawa Police Station, which falls into Kaduna South Local government, it was observed that people who have gone to get their voter cards were directed by the officials conducting the exercise to write their names and wait till when they would be called for the registration in July this year.
A women from Kamazo along with her daughter said she finally succeeded in her fourth visit to Kujama, Chikun for the registration and called on INEC to please create more centres in the area to reduce the difficulties being experienced by people.
“Hardship is eating deep, people find it difficult to eat two times a day, where do you expect them to get the transport to be coming here for two, three or more days before getting registered,” she asked.
Meanwhile, the fears being expressed by people on how they would move to the local government headquarters on the election day to cast their votes considering the restriction of movement on election days have been allayed.
It is discovered that under the currrent exercise, every eligible voter is registered under the polling unit closed to his or her residence, even though the registration is being carried out at the council headquarters.