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Reps seek to redress possible disenfranchisement of students during 2023 polls



With the possibility that millions of students might be disenfranchised due to tertiary academic activities during the 2023 elections, the House of Representatives has waded in to seek a solution to the situation.

The National Universities Commission, the National Board for Technical Education, the National Commission for Colleges of Education, and the Federal Ministry of Education were specifically urged by the House at its plenary on Thursday to “direct all tertiary institutions to suspend academic activities during the period of elections.”

The House also requested that special arrangements be made by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the students to pick up their Permanent Voter Cards.

The lawmakers also instructed the House Committees on Tertiary Education and Electoral Matters to communicate with the organizations to streamline the process and report back to the chamber within a week for additional legislative action.

Following the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public interest titled “Urgent Need to Give the Students of Tertiary Institutions of Learning in Nigeria an Opportunity to Vote in the General Election,” introduced by House member Kabir Tukura, these resolutions were passed.

According to Tukura, the number of students enrolled in Nigerian universities is over 2.1 million, while over 2.4 million are enrolled in the nation’s polytechnics, monotechnics, and colleges of education.

The lawmaker said, “The House is concerned that these students who constitute 40.8 per cent of the newly registered voters have their polling units sited in states outside their campuses, thereby necessitating traveling outside their respective institutions to vote in the 2023 elections.

“The House is further concerned that tertiary institutions are not considering academic breaks for students during the general elections, despite having knowledge that most students registered outside their campuses during the continuous voter registration exercise, which took place during the prolonged Academic Staff Union of Universities strike.

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“The House is worried that, while the students are busy with academic activities, the Independent National Electoral Commission is engaged in distributing PVCs at the wards across the 774 LGAs of the federation, which deprives students of the opportunity to collect their PVCs.

“The House is further worried that the tertiary institutions do not consider periods of elections in designing academic calendars, as most of them conduct semester examinations when the preparations for the general elections are almost completed or when the polls are going on, thereby disenfranchising the students from exercising their civic duties.

“The House is cognisant that INEC has enormous statutory powers to make special arrangements for students to collect their PVCs to vote. The NUC, NBTE, NCCE and the Federal Ministry of Education, as the regulators of tertiary education in Nigeria, have the statutory powers to direct both the public and private tertiary education institutions in Nigeria to suspend academic activities pending the conclusion of the general election.”

Earlier on Thursday, Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, has joined Nigerians in urging authorities to permit students to take a break from class to cast their votes in the next general elections.

In his call, Sowore requested the Federal Government to instruct the Ministry of Education to give pupils at least a week off from school so they could cast their votes.

The election, which will take place in just a few weeks, has sparked a lot of anticipation in the nation’s political circles.

Due to their incapacity to get to their respective polling places, at least 3.5 million students who have voter identification cards but whose polling places are outside of their educational institutions risk losing their right to vote.

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