A sizeable number of Nigerians will not get their permanent voter card (PVC) to enable them to participate in the forthcoming elections because of hitches in the card distribution by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), according to Global Rights, a civil society organisation (CSO).
In a statement mailed to The ICIR on Monday, January 16, Global Rights listed myriads of challenges both INEC and Nigerians seeking to collect their PVC face in the distribution process.
Global Rights’ observations on the card distribution by INEC are similar to those of The ICIR in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, FCT, Nasarawa, Gombe and Nasawara.
The civil society organisation monitored the distribution in Abuja, Lagos and Nasarawa states.
It applauded the patriotic enthusiasm displayed by citizens in collecting their PVCs, which it described as an indication of their willingness to be active at the polls.
However, it noted that it would be an unacceptable disservice to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy for INEC to disenfranchise willing and eligible voters due to a flawed collection process.
According to the organisation, the continued frustration of those seeking to get the card may trigger prospective voters’ resignation and deepen their distrust of the electoral process.
It noted that its concerns were imperative to addressing the recurrent voter apathy that characterized elections in Nigeria.
However, the institution commended INEC for extending the dates for the PVC collection both at the ward and local government secretariat levels.
“While the collection process has been smooth in some locations, the situation in other locations, serving larger populations, leaves much to be desired,” the CSO said.
Global Rights said its findings showed that prospective voters in the Utako Ward of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) complained of sluggish PVC distribution due to understaffing, adding that several voters in the Orozo Ward in the Council reported visiting their wards upwards of three times and were repeatedly told that their PVC was not ready.
It explained that at the Lugbe Primary School (the collection centre for the Kabusa Ward), there were complaints about the sorting process because new voters were not separated from those with cases of lost or transferred cards.
“This has significantly slowed the process, leading to massive crowds, daily queue waits of more than 700 persons, reports of raucous behaviour, stampedes, and people fainting due to exhaustion from long hours of standing in the queue. There have also been reported cases of unprinted and missing PVCs.”
Besides, despite INEC’s declaration that official collection hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Global Rights said there were reports of INEC officials resuming at about 11 a.m. each day at some of the collection centres, resulting in people having to wait in line for several hours.
“Several people also complained of inaccuracies in the SMSs and emails sent by INEC to some registered voters, instructing them to pick up their card in a particular ward, but were then redirected to another after spending hours in long queues.”
INEC had announced that registered voters could pick up their PVCs between December 12th, 2022, and January 22nd, 2023, and subsequently at the 8,809 Registration Areas/Wards from the 6th of January to the 15th of January 2023 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day, including Saturdays and Sundays.
The Commission had, on January 4, 2023, revealed that no fewer than 6.7 million Nigerians were yet to collect their PVCs across 17 states. As of December 20th, 2022, 231,900 registered voters were yet to pick up their PVCs in Gombe state. As of 2022, 1,693,963 PVCs were yet to be collected in Lagos State and 661,783 in Edo state.
Other states with a sizeable catalogue of uncollected voters cards included Oyo (700,000), Ogun (400,000), Imo (300,000), Kogi (160,966), Kwara (120,602), and Borno (80,117).
In the FCT, 460,643 PVCs had not been collected as of December 24th, 2022. INEC also revealed that AMAC had the highest number of uncollected PVCs in the FCT.