Nigerians are angry over the hitches that have trailed the current distribution of permanent voter’s card by the Independent National Electoral Commission even as All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party accuse each other of colluding with the electoral umpire to disenfranchise voters in their respective strong enclave
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Feb. 9, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE controversy over the ongoing distribution of the permanent voter’s card, PVC, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is still raging. Some voters are angry with INEC because they could not get their PVCs because their names are not on the list at the polling units. The development has made other Nigerians to doubt the readiness of the INEC to conduct the 2015 general elections effectively. There is also the belief that INEC may not complete the distribution of PVC before the general elections, despite the current extension of the deadline.
The hitches trailing the exercise which entered the second phase on November 7, in Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Rivers and Kano, have also made the major political parties – Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC to take to the media to complain of a deliberate plan by INEC to disenfranchise voters in their catchment areas. Their complaints are based on the fact that many people could not find their names in the voters’ register. Some had to travel long distances to their polling units and yet could not get the card. Some who found their names in the register had the problem of their PVC not being available. The anxiety over the matter cuts across all the parties, lending credence to the criticisms that INEC has so far, performed an unimpressive job.
One of the chief critics of INEC, Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary, APC, said the fact that most of the states where hitches in the distribution of the PVCs were pronounced and had the highest number of voters were under the control of the APC. To him, it was a pointer to a clear collusion between INEC and the PDP to disenfranchise voters in Kano, Edo, Ogun, Imo, Lagos, Rivers and Nasarawa.
He described the development as a programmed incompetence which could be traced to INEC’s ICT unit, which had the intention to sabotage the PVC distribution process in key states. He also urged Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, to fish out those behind the sabotage and sanction them appropriately. “If INEC is to organise a free, credible and transparent election next February, it must quickly return to the drawing board to fashion out how to ensure that all Nigerians who are eligible to vote are able to do so without hindrance, and also purge itself of the fifth columnists within its ranks, who are bent on sabotaging the elections. Having realised it cannot win a free and fair elections in 2015, the PDP has come up with the plan to suppress the votes in the APC states which also harbour the highest number of registered voters, especially Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Sokoto states,” he said, wondering why the exercise was better organised in states without a huge number of voters, he said.
The APC also alleged that there was a two-pronged game plan to skew the 2015 general elections in favour of the PDP. According to the party, the first step is to mess up the collection of the PVCs in states with the highest number of registered voters so as to suppress the votes in those states. The second phase is to delay the voter registration in the affected states, so that they will not meet the requirement to participate in next year’s election, since INEC would not have finished the voter registration process in those states.
It also alleged that there was a plot to postpone the elections in the affected states so that the PDP-led government could then use the Ekiti formula that included massive militarisation and widespread intimidation to prevent free and fair elections in the states. APC dismissed INEC’s excuses for the botched hiccups as lame.
Contrarily, the PDP has alleged that the APC was colluding with some rogue officials of INEC to disenfranchise voters in areas the party has many voters such as in Alimosho areas of Lagos. Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary, PDP, said he would have allowed the INEC to respond to the APC allegations, but it decided to reply because the opposition party was bent on diverting attention from its bad and suspicious activities. He said while the APC was making accusations, it might also be doing some things which were aimed at rigging the election.
“We are ready for the election. We have a formidable candidate whom we have endorsed. Let the APC bring out its own candidate and face us. The APC has a hidden agenda and we have all seen its antics in the past. This time around, it won’t work. Whatever evil the party is planning will not work. It might be the one colluding with some people to rig but it won’t work,” he said, asking Nigerians to monitor the activities of the opposition party as the battle for the 2015 general elections rages on.
Despite accusations and its counters by the APC and PDP, Kayode Idowu, chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, has dismissed the allegations against the commission. He said the commission extended the exercise in Lagos, by 24 hours to accommodate those who didn’t collect on November 7. “In particular, it is completely false that INEC has removed the records of 1.4 million persons from the register of voters compiled in 2011 in Lagos State. It is true that at the end of the 2011 general registration exercise, the commission announced a figure of 6.1 million registrants in the state. But when that data was subjected to the Automated Fingerprints Identification System software, 82,892 multiple registrations were eliminated. Also, there was the technical challenge of loss of data and incomplete data affecting about one million records – mostly in 1,792 polling units that were identified and made public before the present exercise. That was why/how the Post-Business Rule figure for Lagos State (on the basis of which PVCs were printed) came down to about 4.6 million registrants,” Idowu said.
According to him, a pre-acknowledge data loss and incomplete data of some registrants is not a conspiracy issue as has been alleged by some individuals. “It is a back-end technical challenge that is far from sealing the fate of affected persons and for which INEC has already put in place measures to ensure redress. The commission has made provision for eligible persons for whom PVCs could not been printed due to data loss or defective data to come out from Wednesday, November 12, to Monday, November 17, 2014 for their data to be recaptured during the CVR.”
Idowu also explained that in special consideration for the 1,792 polling units in Lagos State where the challenge is much pronounced, the CVR would take place at the polling unit level as against the registration area level in other parts of the state. While reassuring the public of INEC’s unwavering sincerity of purpose, Idowu said the commission regretted the inconvenience caused members of the public by the hitches. “Contrary to allegations in some quarters, no duly registered person has been delisted from the Register of Voters neither will any be denied his/her PVC. This reassurance is against the backdrop of temporary challenges that have been experienced in the third phase of the distribution of PVCs in some states, which the commission has been making vigorous efforts to remediate.”
In spite of Idowu’s assurances, many Nigerians are doubtful and are watching keenly to see how the measures INEC has adopted to check the current hitches will help it conduct effective and efficient elections in 2015.