Ahead of the 2023 general election, there is a worrying slow pace of collection of the Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) in Lagos State despite increased sensitisation by stakeholders and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in recent months BusinessDay has gathered.
Finding revealed that despite the euphoria which trailed the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) across the country, in several INEC offices across Lagos State collection of PVCs is not impressive, while few cards are collected in each day despite the availability of cards for individuals who registered in the first and second quarters of CVR which ended December 31th.
The CVR officially ended in July 31, according to INEC it is expected that PVCs for those who registered from January this year would be ready in the next one month.
Earlier in the year, the Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Olusegun Agbaje INEC had expressed worries over the low rate of PVCs collection in Lagos, saying only 6,382 PVCs out of 34,242 received from the Commission’s headquarters for the first and second quarters of Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise had been collected by their owners.
The commission had further disclosed that for the old PVCs, a total of 1,091,157 are still uncollected by their owners.
“The low rate of PVC collection in Lagos State is worrisome as only 6,382 PVCs out of 34,242 received from the commission’s headquarters for the first and second quarters of CVR had been collected by their owners. This is just 18.6%. Similarly, for the old PVCs, a total of 1,091,157 are still uncollected by their owners,” he had said.
In some INEC offices visited in Alimosho, Agege and Amuwo-Odofin local government areas, INEC officials said most eligible voters were probably waiting till a few weeks to the commencement of the general election before coming to collect their PVCs.
An electoral officer in one of the local governments who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said only eight people had visited the branch that day to collect their PVCs.
He said PVCs for all those who registered from June last year to December 31, 2021 were available.
“You can see that people are not coming even the state INEC chairman in Lagos said it a few weeks ago.
“Few people have only collected today; we have many cards of people who registered last year up till December 31, they are uncollected.
“We are hoping they will come because Nigerians like to wait till the last minute. Some people came but they registered twice, so the system detected them.
Observers say that the development, if not checked, could significantly affect the turnout of voters in next year’s poll, thereby undermining the credibility of the election.
Similarly, in another local government area, the situation was the same, although much better than the other council area.
An INEC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the distribution of PVCs for eligible voters had been going on smoothly in the council, debunking insinuation of irregularities.
The INEC official, however, complained about the low turnout of people for the collection of the PVCs.
“I thought the collection would be different this time around, let’s just hope they are waiting till weeks before the general election,” the official said.
He appealed to stakeholders to help the commission in mobilising eligible citizens residing across the state that were yet to collect their PVCs to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the on-going collection of PVCs at the INEC LGA offices where they registered to collect their PVCs as, according to him, anyone without the PVC cannot vote during any election.
Speaking on the situation, Laja Adeoye, politician and public affairs commentator, blamed the low turnout for PVC collection on INEC, saying that the commission should have devised strategies in line with recent technological innovations to make voting less cumbersome.
“You would wonder that when you go to the bank, you can obtain your ATM card within 5 minutes but the same cannot be done with a government agency as INEC.
“Again, the blame cannot be given to only INEC, some politicians also work hard to sabotage the collection for some funny reasons, probably when there are clusters of people in a particular area who would not vote for them, and they frustrate and ensure that the people don’t get their PVC.
He added that registration and collection of PVC should not be what will take forever with new technology that can check duplication, cloning and counterfeit PVC.
According to him, “I was impressed when I got to a GTBank branch, and I was to print my ATM card myself, I got to the machine and I only used finger print to input a few detainments, minutes later my new card was working. Who says INEC cannot adopt this type of technology, to ensure that more people register and obtain their PVC without having to wait endlessly.
“Again, there are PVC whose owners are not aware that they are ready, I believe that INEC should be able to send mails, SMS and use other forms of communication to inform the people when their PVCs are ready.
“The government and those in the saddle at INEC need to embrace technology in order to make things easy for our voters.
Bamidele Ishola, the Action Democratic Party governorship (ADP) candidate said most people may not find it easy to leave their respective businesses for PVCs collection thinking they still have the time to play around.
He advised INEC to decentralise the collection of the card collection process across Lagos State.
“Similar scenario played out during the registration exercise that led to the extension of the registration period.
“It’s about to happen again if INEC should fail to nip it in the bud now.
“INEC is advised to quickly strategize by decentralising the collection of PVCs to the ward areas. It will be mutually and highly beneficial for INEC to do so,” Ishola said.