By Oji Odu
Monday, February 11, 2019, the last of the three days grace to those who have not collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) still with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do so, many eligible voters have like in the last two days thronged Commission’s offices throughout the nation to do so. Yet, six days to the Presidential poll many are still unable to get them.
Have they been disenfranchised? Will the electoral body still do something quickly to allow them exercise their constitutional right to vote? Have their efforts at being obedient and patriotic citizens been in vain?
Speaking on the issue, part of the statement issued by INEC read: “The Commission wishes to reassure Nigerians that we will continue to take every necessary step to ensure that no registered voter is disenfranchised on account of non-collection of PVCs.
“Similarly, the Commission is taking urgent steps to address complaints of unavailability of the PVCs of some registered voters before the end the deadline for the collection.
“We wish to reiterate that after the deadline of Monday 11th February 2019, all uncollected PVCs will be recalled and deposited with the CBN for safe-keeping until after the general elections when the collection of cards and the continuous registration of voters will resume.”
What about those whose PVCs fell in the category of those not printed? What about those whose cards were burnt in the mysterious fire that recently gutted some INEC offices in Abia and Plateau states?
“ We have already become ‘Aaron’s’. We have already become losers. From the way things are going, and from the questionable efficiency and effectiveness of INEC, coupled with the collusion and corruption of its officers, I don’t see an INEC that will do the miraculous to make sure that we the unfortunate Nigerians are not disenfranchised.
“ One thing I know, if we do not get our PVCs today, the truth will not be far from the fact that they have either sold our cards to the gladiators or purposely decided to help their candidate by not printing them,” Abu James, an angry qualified voter who claimed he registered in 2017, and has been over six times to INEC office from November 2018 to collect his PVC without success said.
A frustrated Surulere-Lagos resident, John Onwudiwe with registration number PU: 24/20/12/017 described this issue as a calculated attempt by INEC to bar many Nigerians from voting in the 2019 elections.
“Since January, I have been here up to five times. INEC kept telling me they have not brought the PVCs, asking me to come back. With the deadline, the reality is that I and my wife, like millions of Nigerians, will not vote since they have said they will take away the uncollected cards until after the elections”.
The Magazine learnt that the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams, while receiving his PVC, 24 hours after issuing a statement and warning INEC not to disenfranchise him and his family last Thursday, had urged the Commission to do all with them not to disenfranchise eligible Nigerians.
Delivering the PVC to Adams at his Omole Phase II residence, in Ikeja, Lagos, Mrs. Grace Asemoloye, INEC officer expressed regret at the delay. What becomes the fate of those who are no Aare Ona Kakanfo’s?
On the fate of the eligible voters whose 2,979 in Isiala-Ngwa South, Abia state whose PVCs were destroyed when fire gutted the INEC office, and the 5, 987 PVCs in Plateau state, the commission said it would be determined after investigation reports. It is now six days to the election, and there is neither investigation report nor decision on their plight. Is there hope for them not to be disenfranchised?
Speaking on this, INEC said: “In view of these developments, the Commission has taken the following steps: Notified the Inspector General of Police of this new trend and requested that additional security measures be provided to enhance security around INEC Offices and other critical structures of the Commission.
“Directed the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Plateau State to open a register for all those in the affected Local Government Area who approach the Commission to collect their PVCs within the specified period. The Commission will print the PVCs and make them available for collection in good time before the elections.
According to INEC, the total number of registered voters in the country stand at 84,004,084,
which translates to just 42 percent of Nigeria’s population that currently stands at 198 million.
The number is 15.17 million more than the 68, 833, 476 Nigerians who voted in the 2015 general election.
The South-south has 12,841,279 registered voters, representing 15.29 percent of the total number of registered voters.
The North-central has 13,366,070 voters, representing 15.91 percent; South-east has 10,057,130 registered voters, representing 11.91 percent, and South-west 16,292,212, representing 19.39 percent of the total number of voters.
The North-west has 20,158,100 voters, representing 24 percent while the North-east has 11,289, 293 representing 13.44 percent of the total registered voters.