The NEO AFRICANA CENTRE, a public policy think tank, has expressed concern over the right of Nigerian students to vote in the forthcoming general elections. The presidential and National Assembly elections are scheduled to hold on February 25, 2023, a date on which tertiary institutions in Nigeria will still be in session. The Centre is concerned that keeping the students in school on this date will deny them the opportunity to vote at the elections, thereby disenfranchising them from performing their civic duty.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Tuesday by the Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Jenkins Udu, the Centre called on the authorities concerned to consider the grave implications of keeping our students in school on this date will have on the forthcoming elections. In light of this, “the Centre is urging the heads of our tertiary institutions to approve a short break for the election weekend to enable our students to vote.” It said that “the authorities should borrow a leaf from the wisdom that informed the extension of deadlines for collection of Permanent Voter Cards and withdrawal of old Naira notes by opening a window of opportunity that will enable our students to vote in the February 25 polls.”
Part of the statement reads: “In recent weeks, well-meaning Nigerians have had cause to express worries over what would be the fate of Nigerian students scattered all over their different campuses as Nigerians prepare to go to the polls in February. The preponderance of opinion is that schools should approve a few days holiday to enable our students to travel home to vote in the elections. This is especially in light of the fact that about 46 million out of the 93 million registered voters, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), are youths. Students alone, according to the demographics, constitute about 26 million registered voters. In an election in which the electoral commission has said that youths will determine its winner given their huge voting strength, it will be a huge disservice to the country if these youths are not given the opportunity to vote. We, therefore, call on the Federal Government and authorities of various institutions of higher learning in the country to approve a break for the election weekend to enable our students to return to the areas where they registered. We also call on INEC to take interest in this matter and advise the authorities concerned appropriately.
“We need not remind anyone that the 2023 general elections are crucial in our quest for a better Nigeria. All hands must therefore be on deck to ensure a successful outcome. An election in which a considerable number of those eligible to vote do not have the opportunity to do so for no fault of theirs cannot be said to be a successful election. We must avoid this blot by mobilizing our students for this national assignment.
“At this time that our government and institutions are beginning to be sensitive to crucial national issues such as in the case of the extension of the deadline for the withdrawal of old Naira notes as well as in the extension for the collection of Permanent Voter Cards, we call on the relevant authorities to extend the same consideration to the right of students to vote by granting them a short break for the February 25 polls.”