The Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State, Mr Obo Effanga, has confirmed the registration of 511,378 new voters in the state as part of the continuous voter registration ahead of the 2019 general election.
Of the total 511,378 new registrants from last year, 227, 423 are women while 283, 985 are men, Effanga disclosed this as he received executive officers of the Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), an affiliate of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), at the commission’s state office in Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The commissioner advocated that journalists should help educate and enlighten the women, especially on the need to come out to participate in the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise in the remaining days ahead as well as ensure that their votes count in the forthcoming elections.
Effanga hinted that before the suspension of the CVR on August 17, 2018 in order to allow for the harmonization and production of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs), the commission had considered some feedback on the public’s inability to participate in the CVR, adding that it was for that reason that the commission has extended the starting time and number of days for the CVR exercise.
He explained that the CVR exercise would now be done every day of the week from 9am to 5pm instead of the usual 9am to 3pm, and hoped that the extension of time and days to August 17 would enable eligible voters in the state to register to exercise their franchise in 2019.
Effanga appealed to women journalists in Rivers State to assist in promoting the activities of the commission while enlightening the electorate on the need to jettison apathy and actively participate in the 2019 elections through informed indebt investigative reporting aimed at ensuring free, fair, transparent, credible and non-violent elections.
He stated that the issue of violence during elections was of great concern to INEC, adding that it was as a result of the immature nature of the nation’s political culture and socio-political evolution and the desperation of politicians.
He also noted the issue of vote buying by the political parties, especially in the just-concluded Ekiti State governorship elections, and said that it was wrong to blame INEC for the trend, insisting that INEC’s sole responsibility was to conduct free, fair, and credible elections in the country.
The REC commended the women journalists for remaining strong and resolute in making positive impact not only in journalism, but in the promotion of the cause of women in Nigeria, and urged the press to do more to improve the lot of women in national development.
Speaking during a courtesy visit, the Chairperson, NAWOJ, Mrs Lilian Ogabu-Okonkwo, who led the delegation, appealed to the INEC resident electoral commissioner to put necessary machinery in place to secure and guarantee the safety of women journalists during the 2019 elections.
Ogabu-Okonkwo added that the violent nature of Nigerian politics was negatively affecting women during elections as the hostilities that pervade the system scare away women journalists and politicians, and appealed for a deliberate attempt to secure and protect the place of women politicians and aspirants into political offices.
She stressed that when women aspirants are protected, more women would be encouraged to participate in the on-going Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) as well as vie for any position of their choice in future elections.