2023: A look at PVC collection process across Nigeria

IT’S another election year when Nigerians choose who leads them in the next four years.  This report takes a look at the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) collection process across seven states in Nigeria. 


Since the country returned to democracy in 1999, the succession of government in the country has been through the ballot. Every government has a constitutional limit of four years and can run for another but a maximum term of four years.

Nigeria’s legal voting age is 18 years. However, prospective voters must have a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) after the country’s election umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has registered them.

The INEC has scheduled the 2023 polls for February 25 and March 11. Presidential and National Assembly elections come first, then the Governorship and Houses of Assembly polls. Read the process of conducting elections in Nigeria here.

The presidency is the most keenly contested, being the highest office in the country.

Eighteen political parties have fielded candidates for the office. Since the campaigns began on September 28, 2022, four candidates have led, with many citizens believing one of them will win the election and steer the nation’s affairs after the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, leaves office on May 29.

The leading candidates are the flagbearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

As part of its preparation for the polls, INEC continued the registration of prospective voters in 2021 and ended the process on July 31, 2022. 

Media reports and diverse information on social media showed how citizens queued at registration centres created by INEC and across its offices for days to register for the card. Those who did the online part of the registration also had some hiccups but found the process easier.

An additional 12.29 million citizens registered for the card between 2021 and July 31, 2022.

Residents queue to collect PVC at the INEC office in Akko LGA Gombe State. Photo credit: The ICIR

According to the Commission, there are 84,004,084 registered voters in the country, representing over a third of the nation’s estimated 220 million people. The elections will take place at 176,846 polling units.

Since December, those registered have been trooping to the Commission’s offices in local government areas to pick up the card.

On Friday, January 5, the Commission moved from Local Government Areas to Wards for the PVC distribution.

The ICIR reports that increasing political awareness in Nigeria, occasioned by unprecedented insecurity, economic misfortunes, alarming poverty and growing agitation for secession among ethnic nationalities, compelled many citizens to register for the PVC.

A cross-section of residents at the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) who came to collect their PVC on December 29, 2022  believe that participating in the electoral process will enable them to elect a leader that can keep the nation as one, restore it to its past prosperous years and raise the hope of the citizenry.

The ICIR visited INEC offices in Sokoto, Gombe, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, Lagos, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), where scores of Nigerians either vented their anger or lauded INEC’s preparedness for the elections.

Findings by The ICIR among scores of people interviewed revealed that while some INEC offices have large crowds, others do not. For instance, the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) had a large crowd because the area council is big, having the size of several local government areas in the country.

A cross-section of residents at the Keffi Local Government Area Council, Nasarawa State, waiting to collect their PVC at the INEC office in the town. Photo credit: The ICIR

There are complaints of deliberate delays, lackadaisical attitude and rudeness to the public by the INEC officials, but most people interviewed commended the distribution process. They also said no INEC official demanded or took a bribe from them before giving the PVC.

Some people interviewed also suggested recruiting more hands at the INEC offices because of the large number of people that come to collect the card.

Generally, there were thousands of uncollected PVCs at the offices.

Officials of the Commission who spoke with The ICIR urged persons who registered for the card to come for them to enable them to elect leaders of their choice.

Everyone who got the card and spoke with The ICIR said they were happy and would vote.

The ICIR found that INEC has yet to produce the PVC for many registered Nigerians.

Here are the findings across the states and the FCT.

The state of PVC collection in Gombe state

Gombe State has many complaints over snags in the collection process.

Some people who spoke with The ICIR in Akko, Billiri and Gombe Local Government Areas got the card, and others who could not obtain the PVC decried the delay in its issuance.

Grace Yakubu has come severally to the INEC office at Akko LGA but has yet to get her card. Every effort she made to get into the office where the officials gave out the card failed. 

She was perturbed that she might not vote if she didn’t get the PVC. 

The woman claimed she registered, but officials told her her card was not ready and should keep checking back.

Whereas Musa Samson, 26, a student at the Gombe State University, registered in April 2022 and only came twice before getting the card. 

He said it was not difficult for him to get the card, adding that he was ready to cast his vote for his preferred candidates.

Salatu Abraham

At the Billiri LGA, Salatu Abraham had come to collect the PVC, but INEC officials asked her to check back. She went for a second time and couldn’t get it. 

Another resident in the local government, Murtala Saheed, met a large crowd when he got to the INEC office. He waited for hours before eventually getting it.

The state of PVC collection in Akwa Ibom state

The ICIR visited Abak, Akwa-Ibom and Eket Local Government Areas of the state.

While some residents who stormed INEC offices for the card returned home rejoicing, others got back in a sad mood.

The INEC offices in the three local governments witnessed crowds like other states visited by The ICIR.

Inibong Bassey, a seamstress in Uyo, said the process was stressful during registration and collection. She came with her baby during both periods. 

But for her baby, she would have spent more hours than she sacrificed waiting for the card.

Akpan Blessing Stephanie is a 28-year-old resident who works at a mall in Uyo. She didn’t spend up to two hours before getting her card.

The collection process was arduous in Abak LGA, where a resident, Eno Idoreyin Eta, found the collection very difficult. She has gotten the PVC and is happy that she will be participating in the poll.

Sika Effiong

Sika Effiong’s card has yet to be made available. The officials told him on December 30 to check back in the second week of January. The 20-year-old lost his PVC and applied for a new one.

In Eket LGA, Ubong Udo had come many times before getting the card on January 3, a year after he registered. He was happy that he got the card despite the crowd at the INEC office.

Enugu state:  Low PVC collection turnout in Enugu, Nsukka and Agbani Local Government Areas

Turnout is generally low in Enugu, Nsukka and Agbani Local Government Areas visited by The ICIR.

Residents, including one INEC officer, blamed the low turnout on poor sensitisation and fear of attack on INEC facilities in the South-East.

Isaac Eze was at the INEC office in Nsukka. He confessed the turnout was very low compared to the number he saw here during registration.

He also complained that INEC officials came late to work, alleging that they met him and others who had waited for hours at their office.

Eze blamed the low turnout on the lack of publicity by the INEC and the state government. He appealed to the Commission to do publicity on the media to sensitise the people on the need for them to come out and collect their PVC.

Ifesinachi Ezugwu

But another resident in the area, Ifesinachi Ezugwu, a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said the collection process was peaceful. It took him only a short time to get his card.

According to him, how people conducted themselves during the collection proved that Nigerians were ready to vote during the elections.

It was also a mixed tale of disappointment and happiness at the Agbani Local Government area of the state.

Dickson Nnamani, a doctor, recounted his troubles in his bid to collect the PVC. He was at the Agbani Secretariat to get the card many times but failed. 

“If INEC officials treat others the way they have treated me, I will say they have not done well at all,” he said.

Gloria Ede

Similarly, Gloria Ede registered in 2021 for the card but has been unable to get her card. She has come to the INEC office many times. They kept telling her that her PVC was not yet ready.

However, Micheal Okoro, an INEC official in Nkanu West of the state, said the turnout of people for the card could have been better in the state.

“The day before yesterday, we attended to only seven persons. Yesterday, we gave eight people. Today, we have reached up to 15.”

“The day before yesterday, we attended to only seven persons. Yesterday, we gave eight people. Today, we have reached up to 15.”

Large crowd at INEC offices in Nasarawa  for PVC collection

Nasarawa residents contended with large crowds to obtain the PVC.

It was a mix of pain and joy in Keffi and Lafia, the state capital. While those who have spent hours or days could not lay their hands on the card, others who eventually got it leapt for joy.

Abubakar Yusuf who spoke with The ICIR in Keffi said INEC workers made the collection difficult. He often came to the Commission’s office but didn’t get the card. He advised that more staff be deployed to the office by the Commission to make the collection easy.

Grace Danladi found the collection challenging, but she eventually got her card. 

She promised to go to the poll and exercise her franchise to make the nation a better country.

Abdullahi Suleiman

In Lafia, Abdullahi Suleiman got his PVC without stress. He encountered some hitches during the registration last year. But it was easy for him to get his card. 

Suleiman was at the Nasarawa state office of INEC to collect his card. He spent about three hours before getting it.

But the story differed for Mantu Madaki, who works with the Federal High Court in Lafia. He had difficulty registering for the PVC. He eventually succeeded after many attempts.

He had visited the INEC office many times before The ICIR met him on January 5. He was yet to collect it as of the time the crew left the office.

State of PVC collection process in the FCT 

The INEC office beside the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) headquarters at Area 10 was very crowded when The ICIR  crew visited the office on Thursday, December 29, 2022.

Hundreds of people from different communities making up the LGA converged at the office to collect their cards.

Among them were Daniel Charity, Bakare Oluwabunmi, Amos Peter and Musa Aliyu.

INEC staff attend to AMAC residents who came to collect PVC on December 30, 2021. Photo credit: The ICIR

The ICIR observed that though INEC took the PVC distribution to political wards nationwide on January 6, many people spent days before getting the card at the AMAC’s INEC office.

Narrating her experience with The ICIR, Oluwabunmi, who lives in the Lokogoma area of Abuja, said that collecting the card was difficult for her, noting that she hadn’t gotten the PVC since 2016.

She noted that the INEC made the collection process difficult, stressing that there should be no difference between how people collect the card and the bank’s Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards. 

She was number 379 in the queue from her ward alone. There were people from 11 other wards.

Daniel Charity

Similarly, Daniel Charity, who lives at the Airport, was terrified by the sight of the crowd she met at the Commission’s office.

She registered for the PVC in May 2022. 

She had visited the office earlier but was told her PVC was not ready. Charity had no challenge registering for the card, but she was unsure how soon she would get the PVC when she spoke to The ICIR.

The Commission’s office at the Kuje Area Council of the FCT had no challenge dealing with a crowd.

Many of the people interviewed said its officials were alive to their responsibility, but some people could not get their cards because they (the cards) were unavailable at the office.

Agbelusi Florence

Agbelusi Florence registered at the Area Council in April 2022. She had come more than three times to collect the PVC. The INEC workers told her that her card was not available and should check back in two weeks. 

She was unhappy that she couldn’t get the card after coming for it many times.

But Oluwadiran Samuel expressed delight that he got the card without stress, unlike how he had challenges with a large crowd during registration.

Sokoto state – residents anxious, want to vote

Many residents in Sokoto are appealing to INEC to let them have the PVC to enable them to vote. Others, too, have got it and are ready for the elections.

The ICIR visited Bodinga, Tureta and Kware Local Government Areas of the state.

Twenty-year-old Rahanatu Abdullahi lives in the Runju community in Bodinga town. 

She walked into the INEC office and collected her PVC without stress, unlike the long queues she faced during registration.

She is happy she will vote for her chosen leaders during the elections.

When The ICIR met Bilkisu Shehu, she had come to the INEC office many times and was still waiting to get her PVC.

She was anxious to vote but worried about the card she was yet to get.

The 24-year-old faced a similar problem during registration. She came many times before officials registered her because of a large crowd.

Sani Baba

The 22-year-old Sani Babaji received a message from the INEC that his registration was faulty. He came to the office three times before resolving the problem.

But getting his card did not give him any challenge. He is ready to vote in the February and March elections.

Rilwanu Dahiru is from Gidan Kare settlement in Imasa Ward, Tureta LGA headquarters.

He struggled to register for the PVC despite the insecurity that faced his ward.

When the reporter met him, he was at the INEC office for the fourth time to obtain the PVC.

The 24-year-old spent at least N1,000 to fuel his motorcycle daily and wondered if he would set his eyes on the card.

The 51-year-old Inno Adamu hails from Torawa village in the Tureta LGA. She was at the INEC office at Tureta seven times before receiving her card. She recounted how she spent three months coming to register for the card. 

Sweet and sour PVC collection in Lagos state 

The PVC collection goes on in Lagos state, but some residents who spoke with The ICIR at Ikeja, Agege and Ifako-Ijaye Local Government Areas of the state said they spend hours or days before getting it. 

Adeyanju Oluwapelumi Mercy displays her PVC after collecting it at Ikeja.

Getting the card was easy for Adeyanju Mercy at the Ikeja INEC office. She did not encounter the stress she faced during registration, though she came to the collection centre twice.

She was pleased with the treatment she got from the INEC staff.

A businesswoman, Omolara Onitiri, said she registered on July 28 2022, at Ogba. She heard of the PVC collection two months back but was able to come to the INEC office in late December. She described the process as pleasing. She will be voting in Lagos State.

Akinade Hamza, a retired police officer, obtained his card at Ifako Ijaye LGA.

The 77-year-old encountered no problem getting the card as he did when he registered for the PVC.

Theresa Uche

Theresa Uche also got her PVC without stress from the local government. 

Oredeyin Oluwatoyin spent about five minutes before collecting her PVC at the Agege LGA.

Similarly, to his amazement, Adebayo Emmanuel got his card five minutes after arriving at the INEC office. 

He commended the Commission for the easiness of the collection process.

Matters arising on PVC collection

The INEC has extended the deadline for the PVC collection by a week. The exercise meant to stop initially on  January 22  will now be Sunday, January 29, 2023.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said, “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 the collection of PVCs is extended by eight days.

Prior to the extension some stakeholders have raised concerns over the process.

For instance, the Labour Party had described the process as ‘snail pace’.






     

     

    Although INEC has decentralised the exercise to ward levels for seamless collection, the LP campaign spokesperson, Yunusa Tanko said many Nigerians who registered for the PVCs “are still finding it difficult to collect their voter’s cards”.

    Tanko said, “We have received reports from all the geo-political zones in Nigeria and the messages are all the same – people complaining of the snail pace at which the PVCs are being dispatched to collectors”.

    The INEC said it has captured a total of 93,469,008 eligible voters in its voters register following the final clean-up of double registration and underage voters.

    *Produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO).

    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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