Tertiary school students in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to shut down temporarily all tertiary schools nationwide to enable them to go to their respective homes and cast their votes for their choice candidates in the forthcoming general elections.
They said they would not want to be disenfranchised as the elections are crucial and very important to them as to every other well-meaning Nigerian.
The students through their umbrella body, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) made the call in a statement made available to newsmen on Sunday by its Vice president (External Affairs), Mr. Akinteye Babatunde Afeez.
According to the students, it will be ideal for the Federal Government to immediately close down all tertiary schools in the country for two major purposes as regards the forthcoming general elections.
“The first is that we should be allowed to go home and collect our Permanent Voter’s Cards, the exercise of which has been extended by another one week by the National Electoral Commission (INEC) and in readiness for the second purpose which is to cast our votes for our candidates of choice from the presidency to the states’ house of assembly,” the students said.
They said even though lack of flexibility of INEC and rigidity of schools’ managements in time past had denied many students opportunity of voting in general elections, the current case about the high level of awareness on why all eligible voters must have to cast their votes according to their conscience for their choice candidates has necessitated for government to make the process flexible and accessible to all.
The students argued that they were at home due to the prolonged industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) last year when a continuous voters’ registration exercise took place.
They said further, “So, about 4 million of us according to INEC statistics registered newly for PVCs at the period and that is a huge figure.
“That is why we should be allowed to go home and collect our PVCs as it appears now that the school authorities are not considering to give us a short break to perform our civic responsibility.
“So, we are calling on the Federal Government to mandate the tertiary school regulators, namely: the National Universities Commission (NUC) for universities, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) for polytechnics and the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) for colleges of education through the Federal Ministry of Education to shut down all tertiary schools temporarily until after the elections.
“This will afford us the opportunity to have access to our PVCs and also to take part in voting for our candidates of choice in fulfillment of our civic responsibility as patriotic citizens.
The students said that government should remember that they constitute up to 40.8 percent of the newly registered voters nationwide and to disenfranchise such huge potential voters would not make the results of the forthcoming elections true voices of Nigerian people.
Reacting on the demand, parents under the aegis of National Parent -Teacher Association of Nigeria (NPTAN), said they were in total support to allow students to come back home to exercise their franchise in the elections.
The national President of the association, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, told Nigerian Tribune in an interview, on Sunday, that it is not only necessary but also important that all registered eligible voters for general elections such as the forthcoming ones in the country should be allowed to exercise their franchise.
He said the situation of the country as of today with majority of people living in poverty and also with a huge out- of-school children required that credible and trusted people are elected for next government.
Danjuma, however, said the proposed short students’ break should be only for casting of votes and not for PVCs collection.
According to him, if INEC has a political will, it knows what to do to ensure the students, who have PVCs with them across the country get their PVCs even while in school.
He said INEC has data of every registered student and could make use of their offices at every local government across the country to channel their PVCs to them in schools rather than for them to come home for PVCs and go back to school and then come back home again to cast their votes.
He said such arrangement would be too risky for students particularly who live far away from schools to take, more so that most roads are not good and also unsafe.