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Surge in voter registration: INEC needs to extend deadline

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On Friday, the Independent National Electoral Commission announced that based on the reports it received from some states about “unprecedented surge in the number of citizens that wish to register as voters and the challenges they face across the country,” it held a meeting and decided to deploy additional 209 machines to the five South-Eastern states, Lagos and Kano where the pressure is most acute. INEC’s press statement added that “in some states, the sudden turnout of prospective registrants is overwhelming.”

The electoral body said that it would monitor the situation over the next few days and thereafter hold another meeting to review the progress of the registration exercise. The press statement signed by Mr Festus Okoye, Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, gave an assurance to Nigerians thus:

“Every step will be taken and all options will be explored to ensure that eligible Nigerians are given the opportunity to register as voters. The Commission appeals for the patience and understanding of all citizens. Every Nigerian who is 18 years of age and above has the constitutional right to register and vote in any part of the country he/she resides in without let or hindrance.”

Over the years, INEC has been appealing to Nigerians to register to vote, but many – especially, the youths who are in the majority in Nigeria – usually don’t heed that call because of the belief that votes don’t count and that Nigerian leaders don’t deliver on their campaign promises. The choice of words of INEC showed that INEC recognised that something different is happening this period regarding the voter registration exercise, even though it didn’t say the cause of that heightened interest.

The phrases “unprecedented surge” and “sudden turnout” used by INEC capture the image of what has been happening at some voter registration centres in recent weeks. Videos from some of such centres have shown people surging like the crowds one sees at political rallies or musical concerts. The only difference is that the ones at the voter registration centres usually surge forward in desperation like people who are afraid that they may miss out of the largesse if they don’t exert some pressure or force.

There have been complaints by many people that they have gone to such registration centres repeatedly without getting registered. As the June 30 deadline draws near, they feel more afraid that they may end up not being registered.

INEC had suspended the online pre-registration, which was running simultaneously with the physical registration, on May 30. The commission noted that online pre-registrants would require time to schedule appointments to complete their registration physically at designated centres. Therefore, INEC decided to suspend the online registration on May 30, so that online registrants would be able to complete their registration physically at the designated centres before June 30. This would enable the commission to clean up the registration data, print the permanent voters’ cards and compile the register ahead of the 2023 general elections in February and March.

However, because of the looming danger that many will be disenfranchised if INEC ends registration on June 30, there have been calls that INEC should extend the deadline by about two to three months (end of August/September). With that, the chances of more people being registered will have increased

Some groups have even taken legal action against INEC in this regard. Last week, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and 185 concerned Nigerians filed a lawsuit against the INEC, asking the court to “declare unconstitutional, illegal, and incompatible with international standards the failure of the electoral body to extend the deadline for voter registration to allow eligible Nigerians to exercise their rights.” SERAP asked the court to compel INEC to extend the deadline by three months.

In the suit filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is asking the court to determine “whether the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is not a violation of Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, and international standards.” The suit also asked the court for “a declaration that the failure of INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration is a violation of eligible Nigerians’ rights to participate freely in their own government, equality and equal protection.

Those who share the view of SERAP argue that despite INEC’s repeated fervent insistence that it would not extend the deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties, it eventually did that, adding six more days to the deadline when the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, had already started gathering for its presidential primaries.
By May 27 when INEC added the extra six days for the completion of primaries, it was obvious that the ruling All Progressives Congress was not ready for its primaries. It had not even screened its aspirants. If the June 3 deadline had been adhered to, APC would not have completed its primaries tidily. The six-day extension was, therefore, seen as a step taken through pressure from the ruling party, led by the President, Major General (retd) Muhammadu Buhari on INEC.

Unlike in the past campaign periods when the ruling party would set the tone for the opposition to follow, the APC was dillydallying, waiting for the opposition PDP to set the tone by conducting its presidential primaries first. The APC continued to change the date of its primaries until the PDP had conducted its primaries. This narrowed the number of available days for the party to less than one week before INEC intervened with its questionable extension.

That action made many observers to raise fears that INEC may not fully be independent and disinterested in the conduct of the 2023 elections, which may cast doubts over the quality and reliability of the results therefrom. It was in because of this curious extension that favoured the ruling party that SERAP and others are arguing that INEC should also try to favour the masses by extending the deadline for registration of voters, to increase the chances of more eligible voters registering.

Over the weekend, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room), a coalition of Civil Society Organisations, added its voice to the call for INEC to extend the continuous voter registration exercise.

“While we note that some registrants wait for the last minute to meet deadlines for registration, it is also worthy to note that there have been several complaints of inadequate manpower and equipment in INEC offices, thus making it difficult to have a seamless registration process,” its statement said. “This has led to delays and restiveness of citizens waiting to register in long queues,” the body added.

The body said that it was concerned that many Nigerians would be discouraged and disenfranchised if the exercise was not made seamless and the deadline extended. It added that INEC is yet to cover many of the rural communities in this process, thereby excluding citizens who may be far away from the INEC offices which are usually located within the local government area headquarters.

Next year’s election is evoking a special kind of interest in the people. Many people who never cared to vote are showing interest in voting. INEC should not be a stumbling block to Nigerians who desire to vote and have a say in who becomes their leader.

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Governor’s wife advises Jerusalem pilgrims on conduct

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The returnees who participated in the 2022 pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Jordan have held a thanksgiving service to appreciate God for the successful journey.

According to a statement issued by the state government, the service, held at Chapel of Christ The Light, Alausa, was graced by the wife of the Lagos State Governor, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu.

Represented by the wife of a former Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mrs Mayowa Ikuforiji, Sanwo-Olu advised the returnees to be true ambassadors of Christ and allow their encounters during the pilgrimage to strengthen their relationship with God and the people around them.

The governor’s wife said, “You cannot afford to go back to your old ways and lifestyles. As you have been described as the light and salt of the world in the Holy Book, it means that you have a lot of tasks ahead of you.”

Sanwo-Olu then thanked God on behalf of the pilgrims for the successful completion of the exercise and the journey mercies experienced.

She said, “We bless the Lord that there was no report of any negative eventuality. It is fitting at this point to state that we are indeed peculiar people with a deep sense of appreciation and we show this trait in praises and thanksgiving to God who specifically called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

In her remarks, the Secretary, Lagos State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mrs Yetunde Gbafe, said the thanksgiving service was in line with God’s injunction as recorded in Psalm 100 where believers were enjoined to come into His presence with praise and thanksgiving.

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Nigeria needs $12bn to clean up oil spills – Report

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Nigeria needs $12bn to clean up decades-old oil spills in southern Bayelsa State over a 12-year period, a new report revealed on Tuesday, as it singled out two international oil companies, Shell and Eni, for being responsible for most of the pollution.

Oil majors in Nigeria have long faced legal challenges over Niger Delta spills, which they mostly blame on sabotage and vandalism of pipelines and illegal refining.

The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission said in a report that it started an investigation in 2019 on the impact of spills and looked at evidence from forensic scientists, blood samples from people in affected areas and company data, according to Reuters.

The investigation discovered, among other findings, that toxic pollutants from spills and gas flaring were many times higher than the safe limits in samples of soil, water, air, and in the blood of local residents, the commission said.

“The report finds failures of strategy, prevention, response and remediation by oil companies,” it said.

Reuters stated that a spokesperson for Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited said the oil firm was not privy to the final report and could not comment.

An Eni spokesperson said the oil spills were due to theft to feed illegal refineries as well as illegal exports and sabotage but the company undertook to remedy all spills.

Most of the gas produced from Eni’s Nigerian unit was converted into LNG and fed local power plants, the spokesperson said, adding that “Eni conducts its activities according to the sector’s international environmental best practices, without any distinction on a country basis.”

Toxins that cause burns, lung problems and risk of cancer were widespread while oil company-led clean-ups were often poorly executed and could further contaminate soil and groundwater, the commission’s report said.

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Experts advise marketers to leverage technology

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Experts have advised marketing professionals to take advantage of technology to revamp marketing tactics.

The marketers were admonished at the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria Ikeja Chapter 3rd Annual Public Lecture held recently in Lagos.

Speakers at the event said due to the highly competitive marketing arena, marketers must be willing to adjust their approaches in response to shifting market trends and economic circumstances, to remain competitive and achieve success.

The Ikeja Chapter Chairman of NIMN and Chief Executive Officer of Procon Group, Adebayo Oke, noted that the conference was basically to review the position of things in the institute in the face of the country’s dynamic economy.

He said, “We all know that in terms of political economy, we are going to be having a change very soon. Where we are coming from, there are issues that have affected consumerism in terms of the power of a consumer, choices and whether it will get tougher or better that is why we are here. To also share knowledge among the top practitioners to floor it down.”

According to him, a lot of quacks are in the market and most companies believe marketing is anybody’s function.

“And going forward, we are going to be regulating the practice of marketing across all industries and in partnership with the international brands in the areas of marketing, including the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK, amongst others,” he stated.

He disclosed that the institute would be partnering with most companies to ensure that only certified marketer would be allowed to practice marketing, to enable the institute get rid of all the quacks.

The President and Chairman of Council for NIMN, Idorenyen Enang, in his keynote address, highlighted the significance of marketers harnessing the potential of technology while ensuring that they adhere to ethical principles of the profession.

He said, “The benefits of technology in streamlining operations are widely appreciated. However, concerns about job displacement due to AI have arisen. Marketers must strive for a harmonious implementation of these technologies, striking a balance that mitigates such disadvantages.”

He added that while automation greatly enhances efficiency, there is a potential loss of intellectual capacity as the current generation prioritises speed, brevity, and simplicity.

Also, the Head Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Media & Insights of FrieslandCampina WAMCO Plc, Ifeoluwa Obafemi, said, “In the phase of technological advancement and changes in consumer behaviour, as marketing professionals, we should set our organisation in a future forward mode. For businesses to maintain a competitive edge in the present-day business environment, undergoing a marketing transformation is a necessary process.”

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Axiom Intel Limited, Kolawole Oyeyemi, said, “Marketers should attract and retain their customers. Nowadays, customers are now more informed and know your business more than you do because they now compare your services to global best practices.

“There is a revolution in technology which has assisted in creating tools and devices and building platforms to allow customers to interact with companies across the world.”

According to him, it is a volatile environment and things one does not think will connect one’s business may connect from a very long distance.

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