• Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Registered voters accuse INEC of frustrating PVC collection

Civil society groups urge INEC to explain ‘step aside’ order on Abia REC

Ahead of the 2023 general election, eligible voters in some states have accused officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of colluding with some political actors to deny them the opportunity of collecting their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

The eligible voters said it was imperative for INEC and relevant agencies to provide a transparent and hitch-free procedure for the collection of their PVCs.

They said this in separate interviews with BusinessDay on Monday.

The Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), which ended July 31, saw many Nigerians troop out to the registration centres to get registered, so as to be able to vote in next year’s general election.

Youths in different parts of the country, who had hitherto remained apathetic to elections, stormed INEC registration centres to be part of the process in order to change the negative narrative in the nation’s leadership recruitment process.

This effort was also to change voter apathy that had seen the enthronement of leaders believed to be mere representatives of

certain regions and other social segments.

Some prospective voters complained about the bottleneck and bureaucracy at the various PVCs collection centres, stating that it could hamper their chances of voting for their preferred candidates in next year’s poll.

“I registered in Isolo part of Lagos; they said my card would be ready in June this year, but I have gone to the INEC office in my area twice this year, my card is yet to be found. The last time I went, they had to check more than 4,000 cards one by one. The guy said he was not sure my card was among them,” Odun Balogun, 28, an eligible voter, said.

Balogun said there was a need for INEC to investigate the process and make the PVC collection less stressful for eligible voters.

“We went through a lot to register to vote; it would not be fair, if we can’t get our cards. I need my card because I must vote next year. I wish the process is simpler; INEC should investigate what is going on,” he added.

Similarly, a resident of Abuja, Saidu Opeyimi, said he registered since December last year but each time he went to collect his PVC at the Abuja Municipal Area Council of INEC in Karu, he would be told that it was not yet ready and asked to check back at a later date.

Opeyimi said: “I registered in December last year at Government Secondary School Nyanya. When I heard that the cards were ready some months back, I went to the INEC office in Karu to collect them but they kept telling me they were not ready or available up to last month when I was there.”

A middle-aged man who simply gave his name as Amos said he was frustrated after a series of attempts to collect his PVC, wondering if his PVC was among those allegedly said to have been thrown away by some officers.

He said: “I participated in the new registration in January and was told that the PVC would be ready in June or July for collection. When I went to the centre, I was told to come back the next month; in July I went back, the same thing happened. Up till this moment, I am yet to collect my PVC.

“It dawned on me that I might be among those whose PVCs were seen in some parts of the country littering the road or may have been captured by some interested politicians as being alleged. It will be nice if the INEC should talk to us about what is really happening.”

Some others who did not want their names in print wondered why registration for voting and getting the PVC have been politicised in Nigeria.

“These are simple exercise that are taken for granted in other parts of the world; even voting itself is not a big deal in many parts of the world, but here in Nigeria everything is with serious stress. People always want to circumvent the process for their own selfish ends. Politicians collude with some INEC officials to manipulate the registration and release of the PVC. We saw what happened during the registration some months back; some people were openly denied their participation in the process; now, it is another story- people are being denied of collecting their PVCs or something like that. This is not good for our democracy. Nigeria will be 62 by October 1st; are we maturing or retarding? It is a serious concern to me,” a concerned prospective voter told BusinessDay Monday.

An official of the commission, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told BusinessDay that for those who registered in January, their PVCs would be ready for collection next month, while those who enrolled in the days closer to the end of the exercise in July would have their cards from November.

The INEC official said those who completed their registration from June to December 2021, their PVCs were out since February 2022 and have been distributed to those who came for collection.

The official said: “I want to confirm to you that just as the national commissioner in charge of information had earlier said, the PVCs for those who registered in January this year will be ready for collection in October.

“For those who got enrolled towards the end of the exercise in July, theirs will be ready by November. In the case of those who registered around June last year, their cards were ready since February this year.”

Festus Okoye, INEC’s national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, had equally said those who registered between January and June, their PVCS would be ready in October, while those who registered from July 1 to July 31 would collect in November.

Okoye had said this when he spoke while monitoring the concluding segment of the CVR exercise in Awka, Anambra State, in July.

He said at the time the CVR ended, “the law equally requires that we display the register in the 774 Local Government Areas and 8, 809 registration areas for claims and objections.”

“And we have to print the PVCs, truck them to all the local government areas across the country for collection.”

INEC said it registered 12,298,944 voters during the exercise. This increased Nigeria’s registered voters from 84,000,484 recorded as of the last 2019 election cycle to 96,299,428.

The number of registered voters for the 2015 elections was 69,288,117.

Of the total 12.2 million new voters, at least 8.7 million of them are within the youthful age bracket of 18 to 34. About 2.4 million of them are between the ages of 35 and 49.

A total of 856, 017 are between the ages of 50 to 69, while the rest of 127,541 persons are 70 and above.

The three states with the highest number of newly registered voters are Lagos (585,629), Kano (569,103), and Delta (523,517).