A Tortuous Exercise

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Attahiru Jega, chairman, INEC

The ongoing distribution of voter’s permanent cards has run into hitches which the Independent National Commission is finding very difficult to immediately arrest

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Sep. 8, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE much advertised distribution of permanent voter’s cards, PVC, by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is floundering. The exercise appears to be running into trouble as Nigerians are daily besieging the commission with a plethora of complaints.

In some of the states where the exercise has been completed, complainants said the exercise had created more problems than solving them. And where the exercise is still ongoing, it is marred by series of complaints and fears that it may not achieve the desired objectives.

For instance, in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital city, the exercise which ended on Monday, August 25, has left many voters in doubt about the INEC’s preparedness to conduct credible election next year.

The commission had announced the commencement of the distribution of the PVCs in the city early in the month with an assurance that it would address all the challenges. Godwin Kwanga, the FCT resident electoral commissioner said the distribution of the cards would commence on August 15, and end on August 17, 2014. The second phase of the exercise started on August 20 and ended on August 25.

Prior to the exercise, Kwanga promised that the process would be seamless. “For proper record keeping, INEC shall compile a list of all voters who have gone to collect their PVCs. INEC shall not permit the collection of PVCs by proxy. Only those who have gone to polling units can collect their cards,” he explained. He advised who wanted to register and those who had changed locations since 2011 to go to various centres to be registered and update their data.

But Kwanga’s promise of a seamless process is the exact opposite of what obtained at the various centres across the city. Throughout the exercise there was a groundswell of complaints from residents who turned out en-mass for the collection of their PVC’s but ended up being disappointed.

Many of the residents expressed fears of being disenfranchised during next year’s election because they were not able to collect their cards which INEC has said is the only criteria for voting. At many of the centres, there were complaints about inadequate equipment and personnel for the registration exercise.

At the Junior Secondary School, Nyanya for instance, there was a large turnout of voters on the day Realnews visited. The voters were pushing and shoving themselves in a long queue that appeared to be stagnant.

At the head of the long of the queue, there were just two ad-hoc staff engaged by INEC and one biometric machine. At some point, the generator used to power to machine ran out of fuel and the exercise was interrupted for almost an hour. When electricity was finally restored, the biometric machine failed to work forcing many of the voters to protest.

Sunday Bako, one of the voters said he had been to the centre on two previous occasions but was unable to collect his card.  “This is third time I will be coming here in one week and I am still waiting to collect my card because this was where I registered in 2011. Yesterday my number was 224 and they didn’t event attend to the first 100 people. Today I came early and I am number 168, so I am hoping they will stay longer and get to me because today is Saturday,” Bako said.

Yuguda
Yuguda

Another prospective voter who gave her name as Juliana wondered why the INEC would deploy just two officers to a polling unit that had close to 2000 registered voters. “How do they expect just two people to attend to all us? They were here when we voted in 2011 and they know that there are over 2000 registered voters in this place alone, so do they want us to do now?” Juliana queried.

Abuja is not the only place where people have been complaining about the exercise. Across the states, there have been complaints about missing names on the Voters Registers; missing PVCs; slow process of the exercise; inability to obtain PVCs due to rainfall; uncooperative attitude of would-be voters and lack of patience from both the citizens and the registration area officials, among others.

In Kwara State, a prospective voter who did not give his name at Ajikobi ward of Ilorin told reporters that he got to the registration centre at Ansarul Islam Primary school Okekere by 4: 00 am, but he could not be registered. “This process is very slow and annoying. I got to this place as early as 4: 00 a.m. Yet, it didn’t get to my turn. I still met a lot of people in the queue. People came as early as 3:00 am yet they couldn’t register. It is so disappointing,” he said.

Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State could not hide his disappointment over the voter registration exercise. Yuguda who was in Toro Local Government headquarters to inspect the designated registration centres, said in many of registration centres he visited, there was no electricity to power the computers.

With the current situation, many Nigerians would want the exercise to be extended. About three months ago the INEC announced that it would start the distribution of permanent voter’s cards, PVC, to registered voters in various parts of the country. Similarly, the commission said it would update its existing registers and also register new voters. Under the arrangement, voters who had previously registered in other parts of the country other than where they are currently residing would have nothing to worry about. The INEC assured that everyone would get his or her cards as long as their details correspond with what the commission had in its system. Even those who had minor issues such a misspelt name, incorrect date of birth and other biometric details were assured that this exercise would be used to address the problems. However, it appears that the INEC would need more than rhetoric to sort out the mess the exercise has created.

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