Tension as Nigerians scramble for PVCs ahead of polls

…Commission vows to investigate corrupt officials

Less than two months to the 2023 general election, there is tension in many Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) collection centres across the country as Nigerians are keen to collect their PVCs, findings by BusinessDay have revealed.

Many PVCs collection centres in wards visited by BusinessDay witnessed large numbers of people, with some arriving at the centres as early as 6am.

Although in some wards, the turnout was low, making the distribution much easier and faster for the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

However, there were glitches in some centres as people complained about the slow pace of the exercise and called for more personnel to facilitate the documentation phase and distribution of the cards.

Our correspondent observed that at Government Technical College in Alimosho Local Government Area, the PVCs distribution was going on smoothly on Thursday as INEC officials attended to the eligible voters in the order of their arrival, while cards were given to their owners after their details had been documented.

The distribution was, however, carried out under tight security, as men of the Nigerian police and other security agencies were on the ground.

An eligible voter, Chude Oye, a lawyer, called for the deployment of INEC officials to the centre to help the documentation exercise to make the distribution less cumbersome.

Chude expressed optimism that INEC can conduct free and fair polls.

“I was lucky to collect my card on time, but a lot of people came before me and they have not collected their own, I realised it is the documentation stage that’s also slowing the process. INEC needs to get more people to do that section,” he said.

Earlier, an INEC official in Alimosho LGA who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity said PVCs had been distributed to 12 centres within the wards in the council.

The official also dismissed insinuations that people could collect their PVCs through proxy.

“You can see that everything is going on well here; we attend to people as they come, and our officials are working late to make sure that anyone who comes here before 5pm can get their cards,” he said. “We had to take the collection to the wards and we are not giving people by proxy. We came here to make it easier for people at the grassroots.”

However, in Moruf Primary School in Ejigbo, Oshodi-Isolo LGA, many eligible voters expressed disappointment about the difficult method adopted by the INEC officials in the distribution of the cards.

They complained about the lack of relevant information by INEC officials on the ground on the procedure for the collection of their PVCs.

An eligible voter, Tunde Odulayo, said he had visited the centre twice in the last five days, but could not collect his card due a large number of people and the approach the INEC officials adopted to carry out the distribution.

“Two days ago, I was here around 8am; I noticed that some party officials were coming with some people to get their cards, but some of us who came earlier had to wait in the queue,” he said.

An INEC official in the centre who spoke to BusinessDay on the condition of anonymity dismissed claims of favouritism in the distribution of the cards, stressing that some of the eligible voters were not ready to wait for their turn.

“A lot of them just want to come and get their cards immediately and go, but we have people who have been here before them,” he said. “People don’t understand simple instructions, as you can see; we are trying our best to give cards to those whose cards are here; there is nothing we can do with them.”

In some wards visited in Agege LGA, there were a large number of registered voters waiting to get their PVCs, and INEC officials appeared overwhelmed.

“A lot of us are working. Why not extend the collection to the ward till the end of January to make it easy for people? I had to leave my business and come here because the suffering is too much; I am determined to vote, “Emeka Uka, a trader, said.

As the general election draws closer, many Nigerians have taken to social media to complain about the bottlenecks they had encountered in attempts to get their PVCs.

“If INEC had produced a “packing list “, a register of names, VINs & PU’s indicating in which box your PVC was stored, life would be much easier. Even better if the list is public, so you know exactly where your PVC is,” Adewale Adetugbo tweeted. “76 people on the list to collect PVCs. Anecdotally turnout is going to be huge. The process is manual and chaotic but the crowd has self-organized. This is in VI.”

As part of measures to ensure the seamless collection of PVCs by Nigerians, INEC had devolved the PVCs collection to registration areas and wards across the 774 local government offices throughout the federation.

The commission had said the ward-level exercise would only last between January 6 and 15 January 2023, after which the exercise reverts to INEC local government offices.

Speaking to BusinessDay, Rotimi Oyekanmi, chief press secretary to the chairman of INEC, said the commission does not permit the collection of PVC by proxy.

INEC announced on Thursday evening the extension of the collection of PVCs by eight days to January 29.

As a result, collection at the registration area (ward) level is extended by one a week to January 22, while the local government stage level is slated for January 23-29.

Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, said the commission was investigating allegations of extortion by officials at some of the collection centres and inducement by some unscrupulous voters to circumvent processes in order to obtain their PVCs.

Read also: 2023: BVAS, collection of PVCs solution to rigging- Jibrin

He said those found culpable will face disciplinary action and/or prosecution.

He said: “The commission is encouraged by the turnout of registered voters and the surge in the number of collected PVCs across the country. In some of the states, as many as 100,000 PVCs were collected in the last five days since the devolution to the ward level started on Saturday 6th January 2023.

“The commission is determined to ensure that registered voters have ample opportunity to collect their PVCs ahead of the forthcoming election. For this reason, the timeframe for collection of PVCs is extended by eight days.

“Instead of ending on Sunday 22nd January 2023, the collection of PVCs will continue until Sunday 29th January 2023. At the moment, the period of collection is 9.00am – 3.00pm daily (including Saturdays and Sundays).

“Similarly, the commission is disturbed by allegations of discriminatory issuance of PVCs in some locations. This is against the law. All bona fide registrants are entitled to their PVCs and to use them to vote on Election Day in any part of the country where they are registered.

“Resident Electoral Commissioners have been directed to ensure that no such practices occur nationwide and take immediate disciplinary action against violators.”


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