NIGERIA: Church Plan to Mobilize Voter Registration ahead of 2023 Election

By Odiwuor Opiyo

ABUJA, JUNE 24, 2022 (CISA) – The Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) through its Church and Society and Pastoral affairs departments have proposed a raft of measures geared at encouraging voter registration in the country as preparations for the 2023 general elections begin.

In a statement dated June 21, the secretariat urged among other measures, that; Parishes engage in continuous voter education, Priests facilitate continuous citizen mobilization at different levels as well as teach the people about the need to fulfil their civic duties.

“In our bid to encourage all to obtain their PVC’S, utmost care must be taken not to deprive the people of those means that Christ through the church, has made available for the nourishment and salvation of their souls. The church and its ministers must at all times promote respect and defend those rights that are fundamental to the human person, one of such being the right to private and public worship,” it reads.

This came on the backdrop of an incidence where Rev Fr Kefas Gogwim, a Priest in the Catholic Diocese of Pankshin, Nigeria denied faithful who did not yet obtain PVC’s, entry into the church or holy communion saying, “you do not have your PVC, you cannot receive communion but here, we know not everyone is a communicant, so what we will do is from today if you are coming for Mass carry your PVC, if you do not have your PVC don’t bother coming because there is no point in having Christians fill the Church but during elections, we have only a handful of them going out to vote.  This means our numbers, our population, means nothing.”

In addition to Parish priests inviting the INEC to their parishes or near the parishes as registration centers, the INEC officials should be invited to speak in churches and religious leaders especially through the JDPC Directors get into relationships with officials of INEC with the view to moving registration centers near to the people.

“High-profile religious leaders should take to the social media with messages that underline the centrality of the PVC; Nollywood actors and actresses and musicians should be encouraged to produce films and music to reach out to the people through some type of meta-advocacy and The societies and organisations in the church should be sensitized mobilized and armed to carry out advocacy to and through members and others,” read the statement in part.

The church, therefore, does not approve of the practice according to which pastors of souls prohibit Christ’s faithful from public worship on account of not having their PVC’s. The faithful must not be denied Holy Communion or any Church’s sacraments on the same ground,” maintained the secretariat in their report, adding that, “priests who act this way violate the laws of the church, which clearly define those circumstances under which the faithful may be legitimately deprived of such spiritual goods.”