Lagos residents besieged registration centres across the state on Friday in a last-minute rush to beat the deadline as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) drew to a close, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had said that it would suspend the exercise on Aug. 31, until after the 2019 elections.
The suspension, earlier fixed for Aug. 17, was moved till Aug. 31 to allow more people to register.
At centres visited on Friday, residents seeking to register in order to beat the deadline shared their experiences.
At INEC office in Ikotun/Igando Local Council Development Area, a NAN correspondent reports that eligible voters had besieged the registration centre as at 7a.m.
Mr Olugbenga Ogundayo, a civil servant, told NAN that he was at the centre at 5p.m. on Thursday and INEC officials gave him number 182 to come back on Friday for registration.
According to him, this was because they (the officials) already had many people in queue to register for Thursday.
“As a worker, it is not easy for me to leave my work and come for the registration. Many times, l had come here after close of work and they would say they had closed for the day.
”I have been on queue since 6.30 a.m with the number they gave me yesterday. They are yet to start calling us in for the exercise.
”I am praying they attend to me today; if not, INEC will have to extend this exercise so that many of us, especially workers, can be registered,” Ogundayo said.
A businesswoman, Mrs Romoke Akanji, told NAN that the long queue had persisted in the last two weeks and she could not stand the rigour.
”The suffering is too much. I just said let me come and try my luck this morning, and as at 7.20a.m., they gave me number 480 in the queue.
”I am still wondering how long I will wait here because I have lost hope of being registered. We are begging them to extend the registration so that many of us can be captured,” she said.
A trader, Miss Francisca Esione, claimed that one registration centre in Ikotun/Igando could not cater for the large number of residents.
”I had been here three times before now, and today I have been here since morning; you can see the crowd.
“What they have been doing in this centre is to register about 150 to 200 people; after that, they will stop for the day and ask us to go.
”They should just help us extend this registration and also create more centres so that we do not have to travel far, ” she said.
NAN also discovered that at 9a.m when INEC officials were calling people in for registration, the last person in the queue was number 618.
An INEC official at the centre, who spoke to NAN on condition of anonymity, said the centre began registration at 9a.m. and closed by 5.00p.m. and would only attend to people in queue.
”We register about 250 to 300 people a day but you know since the exercise is closing today, people are coming out in their numbers because many Nigerians like to wait for the last minute.
”As you can see, we are calling them in by their numbers because the crowd is too much; it is the best way to control the crowd and make our work easy,” he said.
NAN reports that hundreds of residents in Mushin Local Government Area also came out in the last-minute rush. Some shared their experiences in interviews with NAN at the Alaba Primary School, Mushin.
One of them, Mr Idris Olubiyi, said he had been coming to the registration centre since Monday but had yet to be registered.
“I have been coming here everyday since Monday; this exercise is not well organised, I have not registered despite my eagerness to do so; it is very frustrating,’’ he said.
Ms Funmilayo Daniel, a student, said she had been there since 6.00a.m. to be registered.
She said that she would not be able to vote in 2019 if the registration closed.
An octogenarian, Pa Oluwole Adeoye, told NAN at the centre that he had been there since 5a.m.
Mrs Gbemisola Alalade, another resident, said she wrote her name on the list since 6.00a.m., and was waiting to be called by the officials to collect a form to fill.
“The process is very slow at this centre, I was here on Wednesday and Thursday but I was told that the equipment are down so I had to go home in frustration,” she said.
Alalade said there was pressure because some workers, especially in the private sector, may not have been given permission to go for registration during working days.
In Epe, residents also trooped out to collect their PVCs and also to register at the collection centre.
A NAN correspondent saw a long queue of residents waiting to register.
A student, Mr AbdulRasheed Mayowa, who successfully registered at the centre, told NAN that he was satisfied.
“I had been in the queue since 6.30a.m. before I was attended to.
“It is a huge sacrifice, but I have to make it, so as to cast my vote for my choice candidate, “he said.
Mrs Kareem Moriam, a tailor in Epe, told NAN that the exercise was slow, as the computer was not functioning properly.
“Today will make it the third time I have been coming to the centre for registration.
“It is only one computer they are using in this centre.
“I am yet to be registered, but I won’t leave the premises until I am registered,” she said.
Another resident, Mr Festus Yomi, told NAN that it required patience to be registered.
“I came today for the first time and I have registered.
“Although, during the exercise, the network was fluctuating, I was able to register. It is a matter of patience,” he said.
Miss Zainab Salami urged the officials to manage the crowd properly.
“People have been grumbling, shouting at the officials, but the officials need to understand that today is the last day, therefore, they need to manage the crowd and attend to people calmly.
“I have been in the queue since 7.00a.m. but I was attended to at 9.30a.m. It is a matter patience and sacrifice,” she said.
The Electoral Officer in Epe, Mr Friday Edobor, said that the voter registration was going on smoothly.
He said that the only available computer for the registration sometimes malfunctioned, adding that there were network challenges.
“We can’t help the network issues, but despite that, the only system available has been used to register thousands of people in Epe so far,” he said.
NAN reports that in Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area, a crowd was also seen. INEC officials assured them that they would register as many as they could before the end of the day.
NAN reports that over the last few days, crowds have increased at registration centres, with some people claiming they got there as early as 4.00a.m in some cases to be able to register.
In Badagry, a NAN correspondent who monitored the exercise at Olorunda LCDA on Thursday reported that the residents had also besieged the centre.
Jaiyeola Dosu said that he slept near the office to ensure that he registered.
“I came here around 8.00a.m. on Wednesday and throughout I was unable to register.
“I decided to sleep nearby so that I could register, and I’m happy to tell you that I have registered,” he told NAN.
Mr Babalola Okiki, the INEC Electoral Officer, Badagry Local Government Area, said the commission had been registering about 350
residents daily since the extension of the deadline.
Okiki told NAN that the commission in Badagry had two other centres for registration, saying that people were only trooping out when the exercise was almost over.
“When we started the registration in April, we went round Badagry markets, churches, Mosques and town halls, appealing to them to come and register.
“Some of the people standing here had registered before, but maybe, they lost their cards; that is why they have come to register again.
“I have told them that it is illegal to register twice and that anybody caught will be prosecuted.
The officer said that the commission had over 39,300 uncollected PVCs, urging residents who registered in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017 to
come for their collection.
In Ikorodu, some residents trying to register as the exercise drew to a close also shared their experiences.
Mrs Gloria Chukwu said that lack of awareness on different INEC registration units around the communities was a major reason for some people coming to do the registration late.
Mr Sam Olumekun, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in the state, had told NAN that the difficulty faced by the people who wanted to beat the deadline was caused by the pressure.
According to him, it is unfortunate that people wait for the last minute before grabbing opportunities.
“The question we should ask the people is why this pressure has not been there since 16 months ago when we started this registration.
“That’s the question that must be answered. Of course, we have a lot of activities that we still have to embark upon after registration before printing these cards.
“The data has to be analysed; this data has to be consolidated, and we still need to print these cards and distribute them. There has to be a point to stop this registration, which is Aug. 31”
According to him, as soon as the commission is done with 2019 elections, the registration will continue for those who cannot be captured now.
“People should look at where we are coming from. In the past, we used to do this registration for only two or three weeks, but we have been doing this for the past one and half years.
“If there are challenges, I am sure it will continue to get better,” Olumekun said.
Newsmen reports that INEC has slated Presidential and National Assembly elections for Feb. 16, 2019 while gubernatorial and state assembly elections are scheduled for March 2, 2019