Reps ask NUC to Shut Down Universities to allow Students to Vote
The House of Representatives has urged the National University Commission to give university students break in order to participate in the 2023 general elections.
The House reached this resolution following a motion moved by Ibrahim Kabir on Thursday during plenary.
Moving the motion, Kabir said the House must prevail on the commission to shut down academic activities.
Kabir noted that students constitute a large percentage of the total voters; according to him, they are about 40% of the new registered voters.
When the motion was put to vote by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, the “ayes” had it.
The House of Representatives has raised the alarm over the imminent disenfranchisement of Nigerian youths, especially those in higher institutions of learning, as the schools are scheduling examinations close to the forthcoming general election.
At the plenary on Thursday, the House particularly urged the National Universities Commission, the National Board for Technical Education, the National Commission for Colleges of Education, and the Federal Ministry of Education to “direct all tertiary institutions to suspend academic activities during the period of elections.”
The House also urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to make special arrangements for the students to collect their Permanent Voter Cards.
Furthermore, the lawmakers mandated the House Committees on Tertiary Education and Electoral Matters to liaise with the agencies to facilitate the process and report to back to the chamber within one week for further legislative action.
These resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance moved by a member of the House, Kabir Tukura, titled ‘Urgent Need to Give the Students of Tertiary Institutions of Learning in Nigeria an Opportunity to Vote in the General Election.’
Tukura said according to available statistics, there are over 2.1 million students currently studying in Nigerian universities, while over 2.4 million are students in the polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education across the country.
The lawmaker also noted that academic calendars of various tertiary institutions are structured “in a way that most students are disenfranchised, as school calendars do not take into consideration the timelines and date for elections.” He stated that the lack of flexibility makes it difficult for students to participate in the electoral process.
Tukura stressed that 3.8 million of the newly registered voters are students, accounting for 40.8 per cent of the total number of newly registered voters, as stated by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the commission’s 2022 third quarterly meeting with political parties in Abuja.
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.”
The lawmaker noted that INEC had devolved PVC distributions at the registration areas and wards across the 774 local government offices throughout the federation. He added that distribution of PVCs at the wards has ended, and the exercise moved back to the LGA offices, “thereby further limiting the chances of the students to collect their PVCs, which is a precondition for voting at the polls.”
Tukura added, “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.”