INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu
•Millions of PVCs uncollected •Our PVCs yet to be printed, registrants lament •Ibadan residents seek deadline extension •83,487 PVCs uncollected in Kano – INEC •75% of PVCs collected in Kaduna
•We can help INEC distribute cards at no cost – Ugwu-Oju
By Clifford Ndujihe, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Festus Ahon, Ndahi Marama, Juliet Umeh, Bashir Bello, Adeola Badru, Ibrahim Hassan, Shina Abubakar & Ezra Ukanwa
ANGER and frustration were the words, across many parts of the country, yesterday, as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ended collection of the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, 20 days to the February 25 presidential poll.
Many centres recorded huge turnout of registrants in spite of the biting fuel and Naira scarcities in the country. Although the exercise was seamless in many collection centres, a host of registrants had tales of woes to tell. Some said their cards had not been printed and INEC officials took their phone numbers for a follow-up.
Last week, the INEC extended the deadline to February 5 and ruled out further extension. As of press time the electoral umpire has not extended the exercise fueling fears that millions of registrants who have not collected the prized document are automatically excluded and disenfranchised in the 2023 general polls.
Currently, the electoral body said 83,487 PVCs have not been collected in Kano and 75 per cent of cards have been distributed in Kaduna.
Ibadan residents seek further extension of deadline
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, lamentation rained as some registered voters who could not collect their cards after many attempts appealed to the INEC to extend the deadline so that they would not be disenfranchised.
It was, however, not all gloomy as testimonies differ from one individual to another, depending on how quick or stressful the collection was to them.
While some condemned the process outright, alleging hanky-panky, some sang the praise of INEC for a job well done.
There were a large number of people at some of the collection centres visited.
In some centres, some of the registered voters said they had arrived as early as 6am, yet they could not collect their cards after waiting for several hours.
In areas like Apete-Ayegun-Awotan in Ido Local Government Area of the state, the distribution was complicated by the lack of enough manpower and other bottlenecks which made it difficult for the INEC officials to attend to the large number of registered voters waiting to get their cards.
At St Matthew Primary School, Akufo, many registered voters expressed disappointment about the long hours they had to spend before they could be attended to.
One of them, Sunday Oke, said after waiting for more than six hours, “it was discovered that my card was not among the ones they were sharing. I did not go to the Church today with my wife. But my name is in their register.”
“We noticed that not all the cards are here, after they told us they have all been taken to the wards for distribution at the INEC centre in the council.”
83,487 PVCs uncollected in Kano
In Kano, there was a mad rush for the cards yesterday, across many centres.
There was a large crowd of registrants at the commission’s Kano Municipal Council office.
An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said 70 to 80 per cent of the registrants had collected their PVCs.
The source said those left were persons who newly carried out the registration and were awaiting the cards.
The source also said the major challenge the INEC faced was with those who carried out double registration.
It was, however, gathered that so far, 83,487 PVCs are yet to be collected in the state.
An official of the commission said “as at 27th January, 2023, the Commission received 444,626 PVCs out of which 361,139 were collected and 83,487 were uncollected PVCs.”
INEC connived with a party to deny us our cards in Borno’
In Borno State, some registered voters yesterday accused the INEC of conniving with one of the political parties to deny them their PVCs and disenfranchise them in the forthcoming general elections.
However, the Borno Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mohammed Magaji Ibrahim, dismissed the allegation as false and asked anybody who has problem of not collecting his/her PVCs to fill the complaint booklet which will be forwarded to the INEC Headquarters in Abuja.
Although the REC declined to give the actual number of PVCs collected or uncollected so far in the state, he said, “ I cannot give you the update for now, but will do so after 6pm or thereabout today (yesterday).”
One of the complainants, Yakubu among others, said: “We demand first and foremost that INEC make a public declaration that they will provide all PVCs duly registered which they claim has not been printed.
“This should not end at just a promise; those cards should be printed and distributed as appropriate.
“Secondly, that the deadline should not affect those who for no fault of theirs have not been able to get their cards, and lastly, INEC should caution its staff who have been telling people they won’t get their cards till after elections. We have evidence of such utterance in clips and videos.”
Frustration, anger in Eti-Osa, Lagos
In Lagos, many residents of Eti-Osa, and Alimosho local council areas expressed anger and frustration as their PVCs could not be found.
One of them, Mr. Austin Chidi, said that he did a transfer from Ikoyi to Eti-Osa together with his wife, Amina the same day but while his wife had collected hers, the INEC claimed that they did not see his own.
“I have come to the INEC office more than five times and have made escalation complaints more than three times and today is the deadline. They told me on Friday that I will get it and on that Friday, I didn’t get it, they now said I should come on Sunday.
“Now, I am here, with my children in the car and I have not collected my card. All they can tell me now is that they can’t find my card. I don’t understand why I should be disenfranchised. There are thousands of people here waiting and they cannot get their cards,” he lamented.
However, the Electoral Officer of Eti-Osa LGA, Mrs Folayemi Bisoye, promised that all those who did escalation will still get a text message to come and pick their cards before the election.
She said: “We have omitted cards but irrespective of the closing date, they will still receive SMS to collect their voter’s cards.”
Responding to the reasons why people were complaining, she said: “Some of them did double registration, that means, they had cards previously like in 2011, 2015 and 2018 and they now did a fresh one instead of them using their information to either transfer their card, do correction or replacement, they went ahead to do a new card.
“So, if you get a new card, you will not get it because when they are checking it, their new card will be deleted while the old one remains.
“All they need to do is to use their information to transfer the card to their present location. But people thought it was a joke, that they can register anywhere,” Bisoye explained.
75% of PVCs collected in Kaduna
In Kaduna, the INEC said about 75% of PVCs have been collected.
According to the Administrative Secretary of the Commission Alhaji Auwal Muhammad Mashi, out of the over 600,000 voters cards for fresh and transfer registrants, less than 100,000 cards have not been collected.
Residents in Osun disappointed
In Osun, some residents were disappointed following reports that their PVCs were not ready.
At some of the local government offices of the INEC, INEC, visited some cards lying fallow with no one to pick them up, while residents trickled in to pick their PVCs ahead of the deadline.
One Ismail Olaide in Olorunda local government of the state capital disclosed that he had been visiting INEC office prior to the July 16 governorship election in the state with a view to pick his PVC but to no avail, as he was told his card is not ready.
He had added that till Sunday when the exercise ended, his PVC was said not to be ready.
Another resident from Osogbo local government, Habibat Adeola, disclosed that she registered for a new card during the continuous voter registration last year only to be told that her card is yet to get to the state.
We can help INEC distribute cards at no cost – Ugwu-Oju
Looking at the challenges, former President, South-East and South-South Professionals, SESSP, and Founder, Nigeria and Entrepreneurship Summit and Honors, NESH, Foundation, Mr. Emeka Ugwu-Oju, has said that stakeholders can help INEC distribute the cards at no cost.
Insisting that INEC has no business denying people their cards, he said the NESH with other stakeholders and political parties can raise a help desk to distribute the cards at the polling units before the election.
However, the INEC has to come with the cards yet to be collected and the names of their owners on polling unit basis.
“The stakeholders can help out with better understanding of INEC’s logistics. We will bring in the Help once they key into it. Let INEC bring all uncollected, printed PVC’s to the voting areas, close to their polling booths, create a Help Desk, to be manned by stakeholders like us (NESH, NESG etc) and we will distribute the PVC’S with ease, and it will not add to their cost. All this can be done if INEC is serious in ensuring that anybody who registered and wants to collect his/her PVC collects it and also votes on Election Day. We can assist INEC achieve this feat, and it will not cost them any extra kobo for this distribution. With this solution there will be no waste of time, and it will equally make the electorates come out and vote,” he said.
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