2023 Elections: Students Apprehensive They May be Disenfranchised

2023 Elections: Students Apprehensive They May be Disenfranchised

There is a growing anxiety amongst Nigeria’s huge student population that some of them may not be able to exercise their franchise going by the activities listed on their school academic calendar. The academic calendars were disrupted due to the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). With the ongoing academic activities in

There is a growing anxiety amongst Nigeria’s huge student population that some of them may not be able to exercise their franchise going by the activities listed on their school academic calendar. The academic calendars were disrupted due to the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

With the ongoing academic activities in most tertiary institutions across the country, some schools are writing examinations, while others are yet to start. There is a chance that most of the Nigerian students in higher schools of learning may not be able to vote, since they may be unable to travel back home to obtain their PVCs giving the proximity of time between their examinations and the elections.

But some persons have argued that some students also registered for their PVC around their school campuses. Recently, the INEC in Lagos stated that the huge number of uncollected voter cards still in its possession may belong to some former students who registered while they were still in school in Lagos and may have now graduated and changed location.

Several stakeholders and civil society organisations from have called on the higher institutions and the electoral commission to form a synergy, in order for the students to be involved in the coming polls. However, INEC has responded that it does not have the power to declare holidays in the schools, indicating that it is only the senate of the concerned institutions that can give such directives.

Some students who spoke with NDR expressed their worries and dissatisfaction that their hopes of voting in the coming elections might be smouldered by academic activities. In their comments, some of them explained that it is impossible for them to travel to the locations where they registered for the Permanent Voters Cards.

This will be a paradox because data released by INEC shows that students (youth) population constitutes the highest number of registered voters in the 2023 elections, with 26 million prospective voters, which is 27.8 per cent of the general voters in the country

Adeola, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, told NDR that despite confirming that her voter’s card is ready for collection on the INEC website, she could not travel to Ibadan, Oyo state to collect the cards due to the ongoing examination in her school.

“I have completed my voter registration, and they gave me the temporary one, but since the time they started the collection of voters cards, I have not been able to go home to get my PVC because of the examination we are writing in the. I hope INEC can find a way to get our voters cards to us, if nothing like that is done, I might not be to vote in the coming elections”, she said.

In the same vein, Ruth Apalowo, a student of Adekunle Ajasin Unversity, Akugba Akoko noted that she has been occupied with preparation for her school examination which will be ending on February 16th, and it is impossible for her to jettison her examination for collection of PVC.

She, however, pleaded with the Independent Electoral Commission to make special provisions for students to collect their PVCs anytime they visit their local registration centres before the elections.

“I have exams and I’m finishing my exams on the 16th of February, and because of that, I cannot go home to get the voters’ card. I am appealing to the INEC that, when we go back home and we request for our PVC it should be given to us after stating our reasons which is school”, she said.

For Alabi Ibraheem, a student of Ladoke Akintola University, the ongoing school activities have caused most students not to be able to go home to collect their voter’s card. He added that he could not leave his school engagement for the collection of the Permanent Voters Card. Ibraheem further urged INEC to give the chance for students to travel to their collection centres and collect the PVCs.

“There is no time for me to go home and collect my voter’s card, there are too much of activities which every student is facing at the moment. Inec should give all Nigerian Students a day or two days to go and collect their PVC for voting their preferred Candidate in the forthcoming Election”, he said.

The Vice President of Obafemi Awolowo University’s Students Union, Salvation Aworanti stated that INEC should collaborate with higher institutions on the collection of PVCS across the country.

She said “I think INEC can work with a whole lot of institutions, they can liaise with the schools, stakeholders, in fact with the federal government. I feel INEC could come out with a strategy to ensure that students leave the school environment to go to where they have registered and let’s say they give them a break, so that they can travel, for a school like Ife, we have people from Abuja and everywhere. Let them give us that time so that we can go home and collect.

Also, the Student Union President, of the University of Ibadan, Adewole Yinka told NDR how difficult it can be for students who are in the midst of academic activities to travel home to obtain their PVC. He noted that it is up to the federal government to make the cards available for students who are currently far from their registration centres. He stated that the federal government can declare two weeks break for students to travel to their respective voting locations to get the cards.

Adewole further recommended that the electoral commission can make the cards available on the elections days for students at their polling units. According to him, distributing cards at the polling units will reduce the costs of travelling before the elections

He said: “What I am going to recommend is that on that election day, at least, they can actually have two Presiding Officers that are going to be in charge so that anyone that did not have the time to come and collect it will be able t collect it that day. Or per adventure, if there is a site online where someone can call some numbers and it can be used to vote instead of using BVAS and other stuff. It is impossible for students who are writing exams to go home for PVCs,” said.

In a similar view, the National Public Relations Officer, of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Giwa Temitope indicated that the association is working to engage the INEC and other stakeholders to ensure Nigerian students are not disenfranchised. According to him, the students’ leaders will write to the INEC chairman and the federal government to demand solutions to the challenge at hand.

“You know that in this country, you have to fight to get whatever gets things done. The executive of NANS is planning to meet tomorrow on this matter to have an extensive discussion. The President also told me that we will be writing a letter to the INEC at the same time we will copy the federal government and educational body”

The Independent National Electoral Commission recently extended the deadline for the collection of the PVCs from January 29th to February 5th, 2023. The statement signed by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voters Education Committee, Festus Okoye noted that the commission made the decision to ensure all Nigerians get their PVCs before the election, and to avoid disenfranchising eligible voters in the coming polls.

As good as some of the suggestions by the students may be, INEC is hamstrung by a section of the Electoral Act that stipulates that the number of persons who are eligible by the fact that they collected their PVCs is published nationwide, polling unit by polling unit.

Meanwhile, expectations are high that the youth especially students will be an important role in the 2023 election. Some of them will also be voting for the first time having just attained the age of 18.

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