The House of Representatives on Thursday urged Federal Government to direct all Tertiary Institutions to suspend academic activities during the period of the 2023 general elections.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion titled: ‘Urgent need to give students of Tertiary Institutions of learning in Nigeria an opportunity to vote in the general elections’, sponsored by Hon. Kabir Tukura.
According to the sponsor of the motion, “Available statistics showed that there are over 2.1 million students currently studying in Nigerian Universities, while over 2.4 million are students in Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education across the country.
“The House further note 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.
“This lack of flexibility makes it difficult for students to participate in the electoral process.
“The House is aware that, that 3.8 million of the newly registered voters are students, accounting for 40.8 percent of the total number of newly registered voters as stated by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the Commission’s 2022 third quarterly meeting with political parties in Abuja.
“The House is concerned that these students who constitute 40.8 percent 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 (ASUU) strike.
“The House is informed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has devolved Permanent Voter cards (PVCs) distributions at the registration areas and wards across the 774 Local Government offices throughout the federation.
“The House is further Informed that distribution of PVCs at the Wards has ended, and the exercise moved back to the Local Government/Area Council Offices, thereby further limiting the chances of the students to collect their PVCs which is a precondition for voting at the Polls.
“The House is worried that, while the students are busy with academic activities, the Independent National Electoral Commission is engaged ip sedating PVCs at the wards across the 774 Local Government Areas 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 the INEC has enormous statutory powers to make special arrangements for students to collect their PVCs to vote.
“The House is further cognisant thar the National Universities Commission (NUC), the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), the National Commission for Colleges of Education (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 elections,” he noted.
To this end, the House urged authorities of 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 general elections.
The lawmakers also tasked INEC to make special arrangements for the students to collect their PVCs.
Hence, the House mandated the joint Committees on Tertiary Education and Electoral Matters to liaise with the agencies to facilitate the process and report to back to the House within one week.