In a bid to tackle voter’s apathy so endemic especially among the faithful, the Catholic Church has hit the ground running ahead of next year’s General Election.
Speaking at the end of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), held at the Catholic Secretariat, Abuja, the bishops gave strict instructions to the faithful to register to enable them to obtain the permanent voters card, (PVC), without which they would not be eligible to vote.
The Bishops seem to have taken to heart the criticism that many people in the church do not vote or see voting as their civic responsibility. Some of them do not think it is worth their while to register or vote although they want things in the country to change politically and economically.
Despite the fact that many people are sick and tired of the misrule, mismanagement, corruption and political banditry in the country, they do not see a correlation between exercising their voting right and changing the ugly situation in the land. There are also those of them who think that only prayer can produce the desired leaders.
“Elections are around the corner, a God-given opportunity for citizens to democratically choose their leaders in a free and fair contest. Such elections depend not only on what happens on the morning of the elections but the entire process before, during and after the casting of votes,” the Bishops said in their communique.
This means however, that what happens in 2019 begins now. The Bishops urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make the registration process easy for people and do away with unnecessary hurdles.
“This process begins with the registration of voters, an exercise that has already started nationwide. Reports reaching us from all over the nation indicate, that in many places, facilities for registration are not available, thus, depriving many people of the right to register for voting. It is equally reported that such difficulties in registration often target certain segments of the community.”
The CBCN also raised the issue of under-age voters, asking INEC to address the issue urgently.
“Furthermore, we hear of the registration of under-aged persons. It is quite unfortunate, that our young people allow themselves to be used as canon fodders in electoral malpractices. Government and especially INEC should address these serious lapses with utmost urgency and without discrimination and bias.”
Corruption which promotes the registration of under-aged votes and other forms of ill practises has remained chronic.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), had disclosed that Nigerians are getting poorer despite the country’s slow recovery from recession. They said economic reforms are urgently needed.
The IMF said in a report that the outlook for growth had improved but remained challenging.
They IMF also said that, “comprehensive and coherent” economic policies “remain urgent and must not be delayed by approaching elections and recovering oil prices.”
Additionally, a report by the Transparency International said the perception of corruption in Nigeria worsened between 2016 and 2017. The report ranked Nigeria 148 out of 180 countries assessed in 2017 on the perception of corruption, the annual Corruption Perception Index, CPI.
In 2016, Nigeria scored 28 points and ranked 136th in the ranking of countries.