A Nigerian man has triggered discussions on the social media after making an unusual offer to pay people to register as voters in future elections.
Tochukwu Ezeoke said on Friday he would pay N1,000 to anyone who registers and shows evidence of registration by Friday. He said his offer goes only to natives of Nigeria’s five south eastern states.
“I am paying N1,000 to anyone who registers & obtains his/her PVC within the 5-SE states between today & next Friday. Just inbox me proof that you just registered & your account details. The token is yours,” Mr. Ezeoke, who leads a sociopolitical group, the Igbo Ekunie Initiative, wrote on Twitter.
His suggestion quickly drew varied reactions, with some Nigerians comparing the offer to vote-buying.
“What’s the difference between you and Politicians who give money for votes? If a citizen is interested in the future of his country, he should make the move to get his PVC! If he has to be paid to register, get ready to pay him to vote,” a Twitter user, Kiki popeyes, wrote.
But the offer was defended by many as well. Some argued the payment, notwithstanding the amount, will encourage Nigerians to exercise their civic duties of getting registered.
“What he’s doing is to encourage people to exercise their Civil rights. This is a means to awaken Electorates Consciousness not a means to manipulate their minds,” another user responded.
Mr. Ezeoke whilst speaking with premium times said, the offer will cater for the transportation and feeding of the new registrants.
He said the offer was only aimed at “encouraging or provoking” people to key into the voter registration exercise.
“The disparity between registered voters and the overall population is disheartening, hence my offer is aimed at encouraging or provoking people to register,” he said.
“I believe the gesture is already generating the much-needed conservation and spurring the docile population within the stipulated region to go and register. It is the right kick.”
Mr. Ezeoke said the offer was specific for people in the five South Eastern states because of the low voter percentage in the region.
“I was shocked to see the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC registration report and the South-East has only 8 million registered voters. This is unacceptable. We are already disadvantaged even without casting our votes. The youth are on social media abusing themselves. I felt I needed to give them a push to see if they will take my challenge, and it is working. Some are opposed to it while some are taking the offer.
“People in the South are complaining of lack of information. There are also complaints that when people turn up at the INEC offices, the INEC staffs appear very reluctant to register them. I had a similar experience where I was even told to go get my international passport to show that I was not in the country during the last registration cycle.
“INEC can look into improving the current process. People shouldn’t spend much time trying to register to vote. This is part of the reason I have volunteered to pay their transport fare and maybe water while they wait to be registered,” Mr. Ezeoke said.
Voter turnout has remained a challenge to the Nigerian political process.
In 2001, Nigeria, with 50.3 per cent, was one of the countries with the lowest level of voter turnout in the world, ranked 157th of 169 countries.
Since then, voter turnout in elections has been declining with the lowest being the 2015 election which recorded just 43.65 per cent and a much lower voting age turnout of 32.11 per cent.
Under the Electoral Act, offering payments for voter registration, without the condition to vote a specific candidate, is not listed as an offence.
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