By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Dapo Akinrefon, Monsur Olowoopejo, Bartholomew Madukwe & Ebele Okafor
LAGOS—Members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and many Lagos residents, yesterday, protested shoddy distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In their thousands, the protesters stormed the Birrel Avenue, Yaba, office of the commission and later the Alausa, Ikeja, office of Governor Babatunde Fashola, to register their complaints. They got to INEC’s office at about 9 am and Fashola’s office around 1pm. They displayed various placards with indicting inscriptions against INEC.
Some of the placards read: “The electoral body is hoarding the PVCs to disenfranchise residents in 2015 elections!” “We Lagosians detest rigging, give us our PVCs!” “Lagosians reaffirm one man, one woman, one vote, give us our PVCs, period!” “Jega, be warned, don’t act FG’s script in Lagos’!” “We beg una to give us our cards!” “The totality of Agege Youth, women and men are demanding an extension for PVC collection!” “INEC, Agege demands more time for our PVC collection!” “Enough of your show of shame INEC, we need our PVC!”
They sang several solidarity and anti-INEC songs, vowing that they would never allow election to be rigged in the state.
The protesters, under the aegis of Activists for Good Governance, AGG, The Nucleus Group, TNG, consisted of party members from the 20 local councils and 37 local council development areas.
At the INEC office, there was tight security as scores of armed policemen ensured that the protest did not degenerate into violence.
Speaking on behalf of the AGG, Comrade Declan Ihekaire said Nigerians were afraid that INEC is planning to rig next year’s elections, especially in states controlled by the APC, which informed the hoarding of the PVCs.
“2015 is here already and any attempt to disenfranchise Nigerians will mark the beginning of action. What we see is that INEC is short of staff and you are already being nicknamed as trying to rig the election next year,” he told the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Lagos State, Dr Adekunle Ademola.
“INEC must ensure the PVCs get to the people and they should not attempt to rig the election. Those in power know that there will be protest votes in 2015 and that is why they are trying to rig the election,” he added.
Spokesperson of TNG, Comrade Olusola Odubiro called on INEC to extend the exercise by two weeks so that all Lagosians would get their PVCs.
Responding, Dr. Ogunmola admitted that the body had been encountering problems in the distribution of PVCs in Lagos but assured that at the end of the exercise, every Lagosian duly registered will get his or her PVC.
“Our intention is to ensure all registered voters in Lagos State get their PVCs before the 2015 elections. There have been hiccups; we are only distributing materials given to us,” he admitted.
Extends exercise till tomorrow in Mushin, others
Ogunmola said: “Due to the problem encountered on Friday, we added Monday. Beyond that, there are some local governments that would be addressed on case-by-case basis like Mushin Local Government. We received some PVCs yesterday (Sunday) and we have deployed our officers to the local governments. We will extend the exercise till Tuesday (today) for that local government.
“In Mushin, yesterday, we distributed PVCs to 529 polling units. By the time we complete the 11 Local Governments, all will be captured. We are also doing continuous voters registration to capture everybody,” he said.
Data for some polling units no longer exist
Ogunmola continued: “The reason why you cannot find INEC officials at some polling units was that the data for those units no longer exist. We will be taking our machines to those polling units to re-register the residents, and two machines have been allocated for those units.”
‘Unclaimed PVCs will be transferred to council INEC offices’
After the exercise , he said, “residents are expected to visit the councils to collect their PVCs. The beauty of the arrangement is we will be following the process up with the Continuous Voter Registration. For those who didn’t see their name on the list, they should re-register when the voters registration starts.”
Voting in 2015 election
For next year’s election, Ogunmola said: “Anyone whose fingerprints does not correspond with what is on his PVC will not be counted. What we are doing is because of the political class. We want to ensure that we block all loopholes, and that was why it has taken the commission this long to provide the cards.”
Why we couldn’t retain 6.2 million register for Lagos
“If we retain the number we captured in 2011, residents will get to their polling units and will not be able to find their names. It amounts to disenfranchising them. That was why we have decided to inform them earlier. When we started the registration in 2010, there were some hiccups and some of them didn’t revisit the polling units for ratification when we announced that they should go revisit the polling units.”
Fashola appeals to protesters
Responding, Governor Babatunde Fashola who led the members of the State Executive Council to address the protesting residents, expressed disappointment with INEC’s handling of the PVC distribution exercise.
While also calling for extension of the exercise in view of the population of Lagos State, he said: “If our sizes are different why don’t we have different cloths? When they spend certain days in states that are not as populated as Lagos, why should they spend same days with Lagos which is more populated?”
“Why should INEC keep deceiving us? What if INEC is the one running our banks? What if INEC is the one producing Coca-cola and Guinness and other popular consumables,? We wouldn’t have had them in the market again What is difficult in the distribution of the PVCs?”
He wondered why it is becoming increasingly difficult for the nation’s electoral umpire to do the necessary things by ensuring all Nigerians are not disenfranchised.
Speaking in like manner, a pro-democracy pressure group, the Centre for Transparent and Credible Election (CTCE) berated the INEC and described its handling of the exercise in Lagos as “shoddy and untidy.”
The group, in a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Wale Adeyemi complained that, “the exercise is fraught with a lot of irregularities such as duplication of names, missing names, misspelt names, inadequate materials as well as muddling up of identities.”
Against this background, the organization therefore called on the INEC boss, Professor Attahiru Jega, to put his house in order so as not to create the impression that he is out to disenfranchise Lagos voters.