By Victoria Ojeme

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has urged Nigerians to ignore reports claiming that those registered by the Commission can cast votes in the upcoming 2023 elections without presenting their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) at polling units.

INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, made the clarification at an ongoing induction retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of the Commission, held in Lagos. The retreat was organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

He said that the reports which began trending last week are misleading and contradict provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, specifically Section 47:1, which reads that: “A person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a presiding officer for accreditation at the polling unit in his constituency in which his name is registered”

His reaction came against the backdrop of arguments that Nigerians should be allowed to vote without their PVCs since the newly introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines can validate voters without them presenting their cards physically at polling units.

He urged Nigerians to ignore any suggestion that a person can vote on election day without PVC.

“Nobody can vote without the Permanent Voter’s Card. The position of the law is therefore clear. The PVC is a necessary requirement for voting,” he said.

He lamented the destruction of facilities and assets of INEC across the country in which 5 local government offices of the commission we’re attacked by yet unknown persons in the last four months alone.

He cited that buildings have been destroyed and critical facilities lost. These facilities include a total of 1,992 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles and 22 electric power generators as well as thousands of uncollected PVCs, among many other items.

“These attacks must stop and the perpetrators apprehended and prosecuted. Our responsibility is to conduct elections. I want to assure Nigerians that we will recover from these attacks. The lost materials will be replaced.

“But there is a limit to our ability to keep replacing lost or damaged items with just 86 days to the general elections,” he said.

Mr. Mahmoud said the INEC will continue to work with security agencies, traditional and community leaders and all well meaning Nigerians to stop the attacks but the ultimate solution is the arrest and prosecution of the culprits so that vandals and arsonist don’t feel that bad behaviour is acceptable in the country.

He said one of the most painful things about the attacks is what happened most recently in Ebonyi State where staff had only moved into newly renovated offices of the commission on a Friday but by Sunday, the entire offices were destroyed.

“This is very very sad. There’s a limit to what we can do about these things as elections approach,” Professor Yakubu said.

UNDP Chief Technical Adviser for Elections, Mr. Deryck Fritz, earlier in his remarks, said democracy, in many parts of the world, is under threat and it is only through the efforts of strong institutions that such threats can be resisted and repelled.

He explained that where questions arise regarding the conduct of the process, or allegations of electoral mismanagement or even fraud, it is critical that trusted and competent mechanisms exist to address these concerns, as an important alternative to electoral violence and political instability.

He further explained that INEC as the constitutionally mandated body, must be and also be seen to be the impartial and neutral arbiter of the electoral contest.

“In this regard, it is the honourable Chairman and the National Commissioners who set the policy framework and mobilize the necessary resources, but it is you, the Resident Electoral Commissioners and your teams that organise and administer the elections in your respective areas of responsibility.

“It is you that must effectively implement the policies of commission and be the proactive frontline problem-solvers. It is you that must oversee the prudent management of the technical, material, financial and human resources entrusted to you,” Mr. Fritz said.


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