By Abiose Adelaja Adams
At polling units in Ikorodu local council development areas from where www.icirnigeria monitored the exercise on Saturday, Lagosians were seen wearing long faces, a result of long hours of waiting, with many ending up not able to collect their PVCs.
Some put up their umbrellas while other sought shade under trees to avoid the scorching heat of the sun.
Also noticeably, demographics of those who turned out weighed heavily on the side of retirees, the middle aged, women with children. A general absence of young people aged 18-35 was observed.
At polling unit located inside the Answarul-Islam primary school, Ijede, A. Salau, 56, told our reporter that he arrived the centre at 10am and had not got his card as at 2pm, the time of reporting.
Other people were seen suggesting to the officers ways of speeding up the process and complaining of their sluggishness and lack of order.
“When you come, you first go and check your name on the wall and then come and queue up, when it is your turn, you show them your number, and they start searching for your name,” said Salau.
He considered this process stressful, tiring and discouraging to people who had come to pick their permanent voters’ cards.
Four points of collection were seen at the school. Each had two officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. youth corps members who were saddled with the onerous task of manually searching through more than a thousand names (a list of 1,391 and 1,699 names were seen on the wall at that unit) to issue people their cards.
This took as long as 30-45 minutes. As for those who had lost their temporary voter cards (which was issued in 2011), a separate form has to be filled as well as submitting two passport photos.
A woman who gave her name simply as Bimpe, who falls into the latter category lamented that she was not informed of this beforehand and so she had to go back home to get a photo. There were no photographers at these centers.
And some centres ran out of the forms because there were no photocopiers.Thus, many people had a slim possibility of getting their permanent card.
The polling unit located inside the NEPA Staff quarters at Egbin Thermal station was even more chaotic as the restive crowd bitterly complained at what they called the INEC officers‘ sluggish and nonchalant attitude.
This led to an exchange of words as elderly persons who had been worked up waiting so long berated the young corps members. At a point the exercise stopped because the officers were unwilling to call out one after another the 1,349 registered voters at the unit.
Intervening, the supervisor, who refused to give her name because she claimed to be stressed up and busy, blamed the crowd for their impatience.
“The personnel are enough for the work,“ she said offhandedly, “ it is just that the people are not patient, if they are, it won’t take one hour to finish this,” she said.
She added that those who lost their temporary cards have to come another day as the forms they will fill were not available.
Sola Banjo, who spoke to our reporter at another center located inside the Methodist Primary School, Okeletu, along Ijede road, did not agree the supervisor and said that two people are not enough to handle over a 1,000 names by manual counting.
“I consider this whole exercise clumsy and shoddy. It is not free and fair at all. I think it is just an attempt of the government to frustrate people so as to disenfranchise the people. You know if they come here and see all these, they may be discouraged and they wont come out to collect and if they don’t, they can’t vote,” said Banjo, a business man.
“How can two persons be counting 1,000 names,” he further queried.
At this center too, the officers refused to succumb to the cries of the people to call out the names, but would rather peruse through a box of thousands of cards to issue the individual PVC.
Speaking of his experience of his experience, the Programme manager of the Democracy Vanguard, a non governmental organization, NGO, Shina Odugbemi, said it did not meet expectations.
“We’ve been to Agege, Kosofe and Ikeja today, it is all the same thing everywhere. At Kosofe, the officers arrived at 11:20am. The same at Agege. Basically the exercise is shoddy.
Odugbemi added; “We cannot talk of a successful election without a successful voter’s registration.“
“In one of the units we are coming from, they (INEC) were searching for one man’s card and till we left, they have not exhausted names starting with letter ‘A’. Where then is the role of IT in all these,” he wondered.
According to the observer, for an exercise that gulped a lot of money, it exercise was not well organized.
“People are beginning to suspect it’s a ploy by the government and this is going to affect the credibility of the elections.“
Odugbemi also advocated continuous registration for teenagers as they turn 18 years.
Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, had on Friday, when the exercise commenced expressed his dissatisfaction, saying that INEC was going to disenfranchise a lot of voters.
The governor said that INEC had shifted the exercise twice in the past and delisted no fewer than 1.4 million registered voters in the state.
Signs that things could go wrong became evident on Friday when the exercise was supposed to have started. The Lagos government had declared a public holiday for Lagosians to enable them participate, but it failed because the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, Adekunle Ogunmola, said the PVCs were not delivered to the state.
Ogunmola, however, added that the exercise will be extended by one more day to ensure that the 4.8 million registered voters in Lagos pick up their cards.
He also assured that continuous voters registration will be done to make up for the lost time.