*Mulls extension of voters’ registration deadline
Chuks Okocha

Following insinuation that the 2023 general election could be rigged scientifically, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday vowed that the commission would do everything in its power to protect the sanctity of the ballot
Yakubu has also promised that the commission would get feedback concerning the calls for the extension of the Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR).
Yakubu spoke last night at a pre-event dinner organised by the European Union (EU), where Nigeria’s music stars featured in the Youth Vote Count 2.0  mega concert held at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos,  interacted with officials of the commission.
He promised that the electoral body would ensure that all eligible Nigerians willing to register as voters in the current CVR exercise are allowed to do so.
Yakubu has also allayed the fears being expressed in certain quarters that the 2023 elections could be rigged, promising that the commission would do everything in its power to protect the sanctity of the ballot.
He debunked the claim that the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) would expire, clarifying that the PVCs have no expiry date.
On the fears being expressed in certain quarters that elections could be rigged, the INEC Chairman said the commission would do everything in its power to protect the sanctity of the ballot.
He said: “We have been hearing many stories about ‘scientific rigging’ or ‘photochromic ballot papers’ where, according to them, when you thumbprint for a party of your choice, your vote will move to another political party on the ballot paper as it drops inside the ballot box.
“The best way to protect the sanctity of the ballot is what happens at the polling unit. There are no collation centres where ballot boxes are taken to. The ballot boxes are emptied, sorted out, the votes are counted, recorded on a result sheet, and then uploaded to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV)
“And I’ll like to advise all of you to register on the IReV portal. On election day, when voting ends at the polling unit, the results are immediately uploaded to the portal once the processes are completed. We are the first and so far, the only election management body in Africa that does so. We started it in August 2010 with the Nasarawa State Constituency bye-election. So, you can see the result of your polling unit on election day. And since we started, I keep asking: is there any discrepancy between the result uploaded to the IReV and the results given to polling agents at the polling units? I haven’t heard of any. So, be rest assured that we will protect the sanctity of the ballot, first at the most important level, which is the polling unit, and subsequently the results that are collated at the different levels.”
The INEC chairman also debunked the rumour making the rounds that the commission was deliberately preventing registrants from a particular section of the country from registering in the current exercise.
Responding to calls for an extension of the CVR due to the surge in the number of young people trooping the commission’s offices across the country to register,  Yakubu said: “We are concerned like all Nigerians. We are appreciative of the fact that young people and Nigerians generally are trooping out in large numbers to register.
“For us, it’s a measure of confidence that people have in the system and that is why they are coming out to register. We’ll never let the young people of Nigeria down. Whatever it takes, we will ensure that those who are seeking to register to have the opportunity to do so.
“Yesterday in Abuja, we invited all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) nationwide and we discussed what we can do to ensure that no Nigerian is left out in the current voter registration exercise. What we identified immediately is that we need additional equipment, and we need to create additional registration centres.
“So, in addition to what we did earlier, the commission has approved 209 additional machines to be deployed to ease the pressure nationwide. And we identified three areas of pressure based on the discussion we had: the entire South-east region; the big apple – Lagos, and Kano. There is also pressure coming from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). We’ll continue to respond to the pressure.
“For this concert, the commission deployed 30 additional machines to Lagos, which they used for the CVR exercise since Monday (6th June). These machines are not going back to Abuja. They will remain in Lagos to respond to the pressure.”
He added: “INEC will do whatever it takes to ensure that Nigerians can register, vote and we’ll protect the votes cast by Nigerians. INEC is not a political party. The choice of who becomes whatever in Nigeria democratically lies in the hands of Nigerians. Our responsibility is to protect the voter.”
Yakubu said the INEC would, within the next one week, observe the effects of the remedies being put in place to ease the pressure and take further action based on the outcome of the observation.
He urged the music stars to take advantage of their large followership to encourage young people to register, collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and vote on election day.
He told them: “There are some things I would like you to please the bear in mind. Messaging is very important, and you are the masters and mistresses of messaging. When you say one thing, a million people will listen to you. But I would have to say the same thing a thousand times before I get 10 people to listen to me.
“There are three messages I want you to emphasise: Encourage young people to register, but that is only the first step. The second step is that, when they register, they have to collect their PVCs, because registering is one thing, collecting the PVC is another. You can’t go to the polling unit on election day and say – here I come INEC, I’ve registered. You won’t vote until you have your PVC. Then, they should use the PVCs, come out and vote on election day. The message consistently is to vote, not fight. Register, collect your PVCs and vote. They have a friend in INEC”.
Yakubu also debunked another rumour that the PVCs would expire, insisting that the PVCs have no expiration date.
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