The European Union (EU), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Civil Society Organisations are collaborating to boost the youth registration for voter cards for effective participation in elections.
EU Programme Manager, Political governance and Democracy Section, Olawumi Laolu, said the essence of the partnership was to get the youth involved in elections of leaders in the country.
Laolu was speaking at a news conference held at the venue of the ongoing “open air Permanent Voter Registration (PVC) on Tuesday, in Abuja.
The “open air PVC registration” taking place at the Old Parade Ground in Abuja, holding from June 20 to June 25 will end with the music concert by celebrities tagged “Youth Vote Count 2.0 Mega Concert’.’’
Laolu said the essence of the partnership programme fully funded by EU was to get more Nigerian youths involve in the electoral process by registering through the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and voting on Election Day.
“Over the last couple of years, we have tried to answer a very important question. And that’s how do we get young people to be more involved in the political process?
“How do we get them to be engaged? Not just by getting their voter cards but to have a sustained engagement from young people in Nigeria? And the answer to that is very obvious.
“If you look at the detail data from INEC you see that we have high levels of young people in terms of our population, but that does not necessarily translate to the engagement in the political process.
“And, we have said, how do we address this very huge challenge? That question was what we tried to answer when we came up with a campaign called the youth vote count campaign back in 2018.
“The entire objective of the campaign is just to connect young people with centres of power to get them to be a little bit more proactive in the governance process and to begin to shift culture and perception of young people,” he said.
She recalled that the EU partnership stated with INEC in 2018 where music concert was organised at universities across the country and almost 25,000 young people were registered across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
Laolu said that moving towards the 2023 elections, there was the need to encourage more Nigerian youths to register via the Youth vote counts 2.0 mega concert.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for FCT, Yahaya Bello, commending EU for the partnership, said that the commission had deployed over 50 voter registration machines and 150 staff members to meet the needs of registrants at the ongoing “open air PVC registration”.
Bello said the deployment of the high number of machines and staff members was to ensure that man intended registrants were captured during the one week exercise.
He said that while the CVR had been going on over a year, the EU was partnering with INEC to ensure more persons came out for registration.
He, however, said that the CVR registration at the INEC offices in the six Abuja area council still continue till June 30 when the programme would end.
In his remarks, INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Ayodele Aluko, commended Abuja residents for coming out en mass to register through the open air registration programme.
Aluko said the commission thought people’s turnout for the event in the first two day would be low but it turned out to be overwhelming and encouraging.
“For us in INEC we are seeing this as a positive development. Many people are interested in voting,” Aluko said.
He urged more Nigerians to come out and register for PVC and those who had collected their card to keep it safe to participate in 2023 and future elections.
Also speaking at the event the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, urged youth to get register use their large number to get realise Nigeria of their dream.
“As of 2019 we had 84 million registered voters, 51 per cent of that are youth. Now we started again, and from the figures we have the youth between 18 and 39 years had the highest percentage.
“So, they have that opportunity to change things the way they want. Don’t just be on social media, postulating on Twitter, or sending messages on Facebook. You need to get your PVC and vote for the candidate of your choice.
“If you do that, the Nigeria of our dreams that we all want will come to fruition,” Rotimi said.
For Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, said that the partners were committed to provide more youth with platform to register and vote in future elections.
He said that Nigeria could not continue to have high number of youth who would not be participating in election.
“For us, the partners on the vote count, we’re very concerned with the level of youth turnout for electoral activities.
“From data from INEC, the youth turnout for the 2019 elections was less than 30 per cent. In the presidential election, it was 28 per cent. In the governorship election, it was 29 per cent.
“Now, the youth population on the voters register was about 51.1 per cent in 2019.
“But as you can see, from the images from the videos across the country, there is interest on the part of young people to register and to vote in the next election.
“For the partners our contribution to this is providing them that platform and that opportunity to get on the register.”
Iyaga said that when the programme was held last two week in Lagos, about, over 11,000 people register in the few five days programme.
He expressed hope that the number would be more in Abuja because of the surg.
He said that for Yiaga Africa had already appeal to INEC to extend the deadline for CVR for more Nigerians to register.
“Extending the registration will make room for more young people to register.
He explained that Saturday, there will be a concert where celebrities committed to Nigeria democratic project would not just entertained the youth but also mobilise them to participate in election.
He said the open registration would continue until noon on the Friday, when the concert would start till 5pm.