SERAP seeks voter registration deadline extension, threatens legal action

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to extend the voter registration deadline in line with the extension granted political parties for their primaries.

The extension of voter registration, the human rights organisation said, will give more time for eligible Nigerians to exercise their right to participation during the 2023 and subsequent elections.

The online voter pre-registration ends by May 30 2022 while the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration will end by 30 June 2022.

However, in a letter dated 28 May 2022 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, and contained in a statement on Sunday, the organisation said, “voters are also critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their own government.

“Extending the voter registration deadline would provide more time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people living with disability, as well as those resident in states facing security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections.

“Extending the deadline for voter registration would be entirely consistent with constitutional and international standards, and the Electoral Act. Any such extension would also not impact negatively on the INEC’s election calendar and activities.

“INEC mandates ought to be exercised in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. If voting is as important as the INEC always claims it is, now is the time to show that Nigerian voters will be treated equally and fairly. The future of Nigeria’s democracy depends on it.

“INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.

“The public perception of the independence and impartiality of INEC is essential for building public confidence in the electoral process, and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections. Where Nigerians have doubts about the independence and impartiality of INEC, they are more likely to have less confidence in the electoral process thereby undermining democracy.

“Enforcing unrealistic voter registration deadline while extending the deadline for party primaries would deny and abridge the constitutional and international human rights of eligible voters including to equal treatment and equal protection, and non-discrimination.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.

“The recommended extension would also bolster voter confidence in the electoral process, and the ability of INEC to discharge its constitutional and statutory responsibilities independently and impartially.

“Extending the deadline for voter registration would also be justified, given reports of challenges in the voter registration exercise, especially for young people, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, and those resident in states facing security challenges and living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

“One of the people’s most sacred rights is the right to vote. The commission has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure the effective exercise of the right of all eligible voters to participate in their own government.

“Extending the deadline for party primaries without providing adequate time and opportunity for eligible voters to register and participate in the 2023 general elections would amount to an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, and violate other human rights.

“The will of the people is expressed through democratic elections. This requires that people should be afforded adequate time and opportunity to register to vote. Extending the voter registration deadline is crucial for promoting the independence and impartiality of INEC and building public confidence in the electoral process.

“SERAP therefore urges you and the commission to take immediate measures to encourage greater political participation by extending voter registration deadlines, and improving voters’ education and engagement throughout the country. This would show the commitment of the commission to the principles of equal protection and non-discrimination.

“The right of people to participate in their government is a fundamental feature of any democratic society, and any undue restriction of the right would strike at the heart of representative government.”

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