INEC Holds Voter Awareness Outreach In UniPort By Ethel Timi-Johnson

As part of its core mandate of sensitising students to participate actively in the 2019 general elections scheduled to commence on March 4, 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) organised a one-day campus outreach for the South-South region in the University of Port Harcourt. The high energy public advocacy event tagged Youth Votes Count which held at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium on Monday, August 27, 2018, attracted a near-uncontrollable star-struck student audience. Heavyweight artistes and famous comedians created an electric atmosphere inside the auditorium.

Addressing the ecstatic audience at the outreach which was co-sponsored by the European Union (EU), European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and YIAGA AFRICA, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), Professor Regina Ogali, who stood in for the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale stressed the need for students to participate in the electoral process, rather than complaining on the sidelines.

“We commend INEC for collaborating with other stakeholders to create awareness among Nigerian students on the need to play a prominent role in the electoral process. We are ready to support efforts aimed at achieving free and fair elections in our country and we are happy that INEC and its partners are engaging the student population in the universities. We are also happy that the South-South voter registration drive is taking place in our University,” Professor Ogali told the gathering.

She commended the 25 student volunteers who would be part of the INEC youth voter education campaign, advising them to be good ambassadors of the University to prepare them for higher responsibilities.

INEC National Commissioner in charge of the South-South and Chairman of Voter Education and Publicity Committee, Solomon Adedeji, who represented the Chairman of the Commission, disclosed that the outreach was aimed at meaningfully engaging youths in the electioneering process. Commending the University Management for partnering the Commission to host the campaign, Adedeji described young people as major stakeholders in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

“Today marks 172 days to the first leg of the general elections that would commence on March 4, 2019. It is expected that at the end of this exercise, we would have actualised qualitative participation from the youths as more than 60, 000 young people would be actively involved in the conduct of the elections,” Adedeji disclosed.

In his address, Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, lauded the partnership and discussions on how to further deepen democracy in Nigeria through the forthcoming general elections. “As we look back to Nigeria's post-election experiences in the last 20 years, we know a lot of things need to be done to consolidate on democracy and its dividends to ordinary Nigerians. It is vital to register and obtain your Permanent Voters Card (PVC) so that you can actively participate in the forthcoming elections and choose those that have capacity to give you quality representation at every level of governance,” he said. 

In their goodwill messages, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Rivers State, Obo Effanga, Irish Ambassador to Nigeria, Sean Hoyand, Students' Union President, Loveday Sorbari, all stressed the need for active youth participation in the forthcoming elections. “It is not just enough for you to sit on the sidelines and complain that youths are marginalized or that the country is not being well-governed. The Not-Too-Young-To-Run Law has given you enough latitude to make a major impact in the elections and it is important that you register to make your voice heard loud and clear,” Mr. Effanga charged the students. 

Highpoints of the outreach included a courtesy call on the University Management, a talk on Why Voting Matters: The Value of Participation in the Electoral Process by the INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi. There was also a panel discussion on Enhancing Youth Participation in the Electoral Process moderated by Big Brother Africa winner and TV presenter, Uti Nwachukwu with celebrities—Banky W, Waje, Basket Mouth, AY and Students’ Union President, Loveday Sorbari as panelists.


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