October 13, 2014

2015: Voting without voters

2015: Voting without voters

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Director of Voter Registry, Mr. Emmanuel Akem, recently said potential voters who failed to obtain their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) by December 2014 would not be allowed to vote in the 2015 general elections.

The Commission recently organised the distribution of the PVCs and CVR in 21 of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in the first and second phases of the exercises. No date has been fixed for the exercises in the remaining 15 states.PDP1

The distribution of the PVCs in the affected states was characterised by a deluge of criticisms. Many could not find their names in the voters register. Some found their names but their PVCs were missing. INEC officials were not available in some polling units to distribute the cards. Frustrated by the cumbersome process of obtaining the cards they described as elusive, some political parties and stakeholders accused the electoral umpire of hoarding the voter’s cards with the alleged plan of rigging the election in favour of certain political parties.

The CVR’s meant for those who are 18 years and above were held at electoral wards and collation centres in the 21 states. It also had its hitches, which included malfunctioning data capturing machines and inability of many people to be registered during the registration period.

Given these challenges the INEC must ensure that the permanent voters’ cards get to the voters if they must be used for the 2015 election. Nigeria can ill-afford anything that will hurt the integrity of the 2015 polls. The elections must be free and fair and seen to be so. Disenfranchising a sizeable proportion of the nation’s 73 million voters must not be allowed.

Since 2011, the INEC has been working on the PVC and the cards were to be ready for distribution as of December 2012. But two years after and less than six months to the election, INEC is still struggling with it. Major stakeholders fear that the Commission may not complete the distribution of the cards before the elections in spite of its claims that it recorded 71 per cent success in the distribution of the PVCs in the 21 states.

There have been low voter turnouts in the series of governorship elections held recently. They include Anambra (25 per cent), Ondo (40.1 per cent), Edo State (42 per cent), Ekiti (50.32 per cent) and Osun State (54.17 per cent). Incidentally, the elections in Ekiti and Osun were conducted with the PVCs with many people complaining that they could not get the cards. This should not be allowed to recur in 2015.

INEC must ensure that all registered voters get the permanent voters card or holders of any voters’ card-permanent or temporary, should be allowed to vote.