The House of Representatives has directed all tertiary institutions to suspend their academic activities for the forthcoming elections in the country.
The House gave the instruction at the plenary on Thursday to the National Universities Commission, the National Board for Technical Education, the National Commission for Colleges of Education, and the Federal Ministry of Education.
“Direct all tertiary institutions to suspend academic activities during the period of elections.”
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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 back to the chamber within one week for further legislative action.
These 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 explained that in line with 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 spoke on how academic calendars of various tertiary institutions were structured.
“…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 disclosed 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.”
“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.”
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