The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it is waiting for government’s approval of its new budget to kick-start voter registration ahead of the referendum for the new constitution and subsequent elections.
Joseph Colley, IEC’s communication officer, speaking in an interview with The Point yesterday said that they had earlier planned to commence registration on 28 May, after training all their staff (with the exception of directors and commissioners), who were supposed to start training before the declaration of State of Public Emergency.
“We presented our new budget to government to continue the process in the pandemic. We trained our whole staff before the state of public emergency after having someone from Niger. We were supposed to train the directors and commissioners two weeks before the state of public emergency declaration was made and we had to postpone everything,” he said.
“We cannot afford not to conduct the registration because election is time-bound. We now have to strategise to see ways and means of conducting registration. We need the procurement of equipment for the prevention of covid-19, so that we can conduct the exercise for the referendum and subsequent elections,” IEC’s communication officer said.
If they are to work in the pandemic, Mr. Colley said they need to get new materials such as personal protective equipment for their staff and also hand washing materials for people in order to observe WHO and Ministry of Health covid-19 regulations.
“We are trying new strategies to see what to do. The first 45 days has elapsed and is now another 21 days. So we are now looking at different scenario. Maybe in the next week or two, we would be able to come up with definitive plan as to know when to start the registration process.”
According to him, they want to make sure that they register everybody for the referendum, noting that the last registration was conducted in 2016 and the supplementary of 2011.
He added that they could not use the 2016 registration because they felt that a lot of youth are out of the country, while lot of people also returned after 2016.
“From 2016 to 2020, a lot of people would have gained 18 years, and if we don’t conduct a general registration of voters, it means we are going to disenfranchise a lot of people, and for referendum to pass, at least 50% of all registered voters should vote,” Mr. Colley stated.
“We cannot just keep on shifting dates for the commencement of the registration. So we have to look at ways and means of living with the virus. This means we have to work by taking preventive measures for both our workers and the general public who are coming to register.”