Millions Of Nigerians May Not Vote As PVC Collection Ends Today
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) brings to an end the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) nationwide today, millions of registered Nigerians may be disenfranchised in the forthcoming general elections owing to their inability to get their PVCs from INEC offices nationwide.
There were long queues at INEC offices and distribution centres across the country on Thursday as many Nigerians tried to beat the deadline set by the electoral umpire. Many, however, left the venue dejected while expressing frustration at the hassle involved in the collection of their PVCs.
Expressing his frustration to Daily Independent, John Onwudiwe, a resident in Surulere area of Lagos, said there is a calculated attempt by INEC to bar many Nigerians from voting in the elections. He also appealed to INEC to extend the collection deadline.
“I don’t think INEC wants Nigerians to vote. I registered at INEC office here in Surulere since July 13, 2018. My registration number is PU: 24/20/12/017. My wife also registered with me. I came to INEC office in December 2018 but I was told to come back in January 2019.
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“Since January, I have been here up to five times. INEC kept telling me they have not brought the PVCs, asking me to come back. With the deadline, the reality is that I and my wife, like millions of Nigerians, will not vote since they have said they will take away the uncollected cards until after the elections”.
Another resident in FESTAC area of Lagos, Alabi Babatunde, bemoaned the long queues of people waiting to get PVCs, adding that INEC officials were overwhelmed as a result of the large turnout of people.
“The queues were just too much. I took permission from my office to come here. I have been here since 9a.m. This is 2p.m and there is no hope that I will get the card. It’s frustrating to know that I may not vote through no fault of mine”, he lamented.
In Ikeja area of Lagos, Abebi Akinade, who managed to collect her PVC after much struggle, said INEC officials were overwhelmed by the number of people who want to collect their cards.
“I was pushed and shoved. I almost gave up but defied the odds to ensure I collected my card. From what I witnessed, a lot of people will not be able to vote because there is no way INEC officials can attend to them even if the date is extended”, she said.
Our correspondents, who monitored the PVC collection in many states, gave the same exasperating narrative.
Oseloka Obaze, Anambra State chairman of Atiku/Obi Presidential Campaign Council, on Thursday expressed worry over the large number of uncollected PVCs across the country, urging INEC to evolve means of ensuring that the owners of the cards got them before the election.
Addressing reporters in Awka, Obaze observed that the success of the forthcoming polls depended so much on INEC and hoped that the electoral umpire would live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
“INEC has the onus to meet the litmus test by ensuring free, fair and credible election. Everybody, including the international community, is looking up to the electoral body to meet the aspirations of the people.
“For instance, there are many PVCs yet to be collected by the prospective voters in all states and we hope that INEC will do the right thing to enable Nigerians collect their cards and vote during the election, as giving every eligible voter the opportunity to participate in the exercise is a sure way of making Nigerians to accept the outcome of the election.”
Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams, on Thursday appealed to INEC to extend the deadline for PVC collection.
Adams received his card on Thursday, 24 hours after he issued a statement warning INEC not to disenfranchise him and the rest of his family.
Delivering the PVC to Adams at his Omole Phase II residence, in Ikeja, Lagos, Mrs. Grace Asemoloye, expressed regret at the delay.
In his remarks, Adams, expressed appreciation to the leadership of INEC, urging the electoral umpire to ensure that all registered and eligible Nigerians are able to vote at the polls.
“I raised the alarm when it became suspicious that INEC is yet to release my voter’s card and that of my wife a few days to the general elections. But now, having made it known to the world through the statement, I feel honoured that the same body retraced its step and presented my PVC and that of my wife to me. This is a welcome development, coming at a time when preparations for the elections are in top gear.
“Let me say it once again, that the problem is not about me, and the rest of my family, however, it is about millions of Nigerians that are fit and eligible to vote and exercise their civic rights. Eligible Nigerians must be allowed to vote and this is possible when the PVCs are available.
“For instance in Oyo State, about 800,000 people are yet to collect their PVCs, and that is too bad. Therefore, I am using this opportunity to appeal to the INEC boss, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to extend the date for the collection of PVCs to Tuesday 12 of February, even as campaigns for electoral offices end by Thursday, 14th of February, so that a good number of Nigerians will have the opportunity to vote.
The 2015 experience, when about 40 percent of Nigerians in the South West were disenfranchised, was sad and not too good for us.”
Reacting to the development, Afenifere, pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, said it has received lots of complaints from Nigerians on their inability to get their PVCs.
Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of the organisation, also appealed to INEC to extend the deadline for the collection so as not to disenfranchise Nigerians from exercising their civic rights.
“We have received complaints of people saying they have not been given their PVCs. They said they have been going to INEC offices every now and then and they are being asked to come back.
“We are not satisfied and we like INEC to consider having a day or two extension for people to collect their PVCs because once you don’t give them, you have disenfranchised them”, he said.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said despite appealing to INEC to extend the deadline, it has been sending text messages to Nigerians that Friday (today) is the deadline.
The party also accused some officials of INEC of stealing the PVCs.
“We have told INEC to extend the collection by at least three days to enable Nigerians to get their PVCs. Basically, most of the people who registered late are unable to get their PVCs and in certain places, some of the PVCs have been stolen by compromised officials. Even when they are not stolen, prospective voters are being told to go and come back on Friday, which is the last day.
“So, we have made a passionate appeal to INEC that they should allow an extension but we are surprised that INEC has been sending out messages to Nigerians that those who have not collected their PVCs still have up till Friday (today) to do so”.
In its reaction, INEC through Festus Okoye, its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, said it will meet with all Residents Electoral Commissioners (RECs) today, review the state of collections of PVCs and then take a decision on whether to extend the deadline or not.
“All the RECs from all the states of the federation are around. We are going to have a meeting with them today (yesterday). We are going to review the state of PVC collection in all the states of the federation and know what the challenges are. Thereafter, we will take a decision on what to do in respect to PVC collection”, he said.
Also speaking, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said on Thursday that the commission may extend the deadline for the collection of PVCs.
He dropped the hint at the national stakeholders’ meeting ahead of the forthcoming election, stating that it is not desire of INEC to disenfranchise any voters.
He said that decision to extend the deadline would be reached later yesterday during the INEC meeting with RECs and security agencies.
Prof. Yakubu also on Thursday assured that the commission has no intention to postpone elections in Rivers and Zamfara states.
While he maintained that INEC will always obey all court orders, he said the commission has put in place contingency plan to hold election as scheduled in those states even if an order of court comes very close to the election day.
He, however, insists that the commission will not honour any conflicting judgment especially when they are issued by courts of coordinate jurisdictions.
“I want to assure stakeholders that INEC is prepared for the election. Let me assure the stakeholders and the nation that smart card readers will be deployed in the 2019 general elections. The next issue is voter register and permanent voter cards. We have a lot of complaints from citizens, however, the complaints are coming from those who have damaged their PVCs and require replacement as well as those who applied for transfer and relocation but the cards have not been found.
“Some of you will ask that the last day for the correction of PVCs is tomorrow which is Friday, the 8th of November. The commission is going to meet today after this forum and the next meeting we are going to hold is with security agencies and where it is necessary we will review the arrangement for the collection of PVCs.”