By Sunday Ani

Less than three years before the 2027 general elections, a nongovernmental organisation, Democracy Network (Dem Net), has taken the campaign for the continuous voter registration to universities across the country.

Tagged, ‘Register 18,’ the campaign, according to the Nigeria Team Lead, Uzoma Aneto, is to encourage the continuous voter registration as provided in the Electoral Act.

Speaking at the Pan Atlantic University in Lagos, she noted that the Electoral Act provided for the continuous voter registration but lamented that that is not happening in Nigeria at the moment.

She called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to open its portal for those who turn 18 years of age to register, stressing that the idea of opening the portal only during the electioneering campaign would only disenfranchise many young Nigerians.

The campaign is being sponsored by the University Massachusetts, Boston; Department of State, USA; Nextier and Centre for Democracy and Development.

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The organisation, which works in collaboration with organisations including the Lite Africa, Yiaga Africa, Plus Tv/Niaja Info and Ndi Oduko Foundation want the INEC to open the portal because young people turn 18 everyday, and if the portals are not open for them to register, on the day it will be closed, certain people will also turn 18 and such people would have been automatically disenfranchised.

Aneto stressed that the whole idea behind the campaign is to look at the purpose of the Electoral Act and what it intended to correct as well as look at how voter registration exercise is done in other climes. “It is also to find out why ours is different and to see how we can improve on it to encourage more people so that we don’t disenfranchise a certain demographic from participating in the electoral process.

“That is why Democracy Network, being a network of NGos scattered in 17 countries in Africa, is working to bring about democratic changes on the continent. How do we get it right? How do we improve on what we already have on ground? So, the Nigeria team which is Register 18 felt that there is a need to encourage or urge INEC to do what the law says.”

She also said apart from visiting universities to mobilise and enlighten the young ones on the need to register so as to be able to vote, the organisation has held meetings with leaders of political parties. “We have also had media interactions, enlightening people and talking about voter registration. We have also had school campaigns because the young people in schools are the target audience. We have carried this outreach in the University of Abuja, University of Calabar and now the Pan Atlantic University. We are also talking with the University of Lagos because we believe that the majority of young people are found in the universities. So we are mobilizing and enlightening young people to go and register even before the election and also demand for it.

“We are collaborating with other organisations that are involved in public enlightenment like change.org. Change.org is an organisation where you put up campaigns online and encourage people to sign up and each time they do that, it is registered into the email of the government’s parastatal you want to target. So, for ‘Register 18,’ the platform is www.change.org/register18 and once you sign up to the campaign, the INEC receives an email saying that we are supporting the continuous voter registration. What that tends to achieve is to let INEC know that people are demanding for the implementation of the provision of the Electoral act under Section 10 to 12 talking about voter registration being practical, not just mere talk,” she said.