Adeboboye Kehinde came severally to the INEC office at Akure. He and others met a large crowd when they got to the INEC office. He waited for hours before eventually getting his PVC card, but the experience left a sore taste on the mouth.
Omobolanle Aliu registered sometimes ago. When he came to collect his PVC card, he found the process very difficult and intimidating, because a large number of people also came to collect their card, making the exercise cumbersome and nasty.
Gbenga Olatubonsu also came to collect the PVC, but INEC officials asked him to check back. He went for a second time and couldn’t get it. He found the collection very difficult, even though she finally got the card, and was happy that she would be participating in the poll.
Many people express happiness at getting their PVC cards and participating in the polls in the near future, but the process of collecting the cards prove very difficult and intimidating, leaving a sore taste in the mouth, because they got the card after waiting for a long time and having to struggle with large crowds before success.
The forthcoming elections involve an estimated one million electoral officials (both permanent and temporary or ad hoc staff) deployed to 176,846 polling units in 8,809 Wards and 774 local government areas across the country. It would be governed by a new Electoral Act 2022, which contains many progressive provisions to enhance the capacity of the Independent Electoral Commission, but officials must capture a total of 93,469,008 eligible voters in its voters register following the final clean-up of double registration and underage voters.
Unfortunately, no fewer than 6.7 million Nigerians have yet to collect their permanent voter cards, less than eight weeks to the general elections. As elections approach, they troop to INEC centres to collect their cards, so that about 14,000 people collect their voter cards daily in states such as Lagos State, in order to participate in the all-important polls nationwide.
With many people trooping to the INEC centres at once, in order to participate in the all-important polls, the electoral officials deployed to the exercise (both permanent and temporary or ad hoc staff) become overwhelmed by the share number of people coming around , creating a chaotic situation at the collection centres.
With such chaotic situations, many leave unclaimed their cards. For instance, Lagos State, as at December 29, 2022, recorded over 1.6m unclaimed PVCs, with the uncollected PVCs running into 916,961 old cards and 777,002 new cards. In FCT Abuja, 460,643 PVCs remained uncollected in 11 years.
The Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ) in Ondo State said a total of 313,200 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) remained uncollected, a considerable figure, since the total number of registered voters hit the figure of 2,047,598, even though the total PVC received as at 31st October, 2022 was 1,843,516.
In Osun State, 437,454 PVCs remain uncollected by eligible voters as of November, and in Plateau, 49,000 voter cards are still with the state INEC office, with no fewer than 231, 900 voters yet to be picked up in Gombe State as of December 20, 132,623 PVCs remained uncollected in Anambra as of December 8.
With the large number of uncollected PVCs in states such as Gombe, Anambra, and Osun, and the considerable number of uncollected cards in Ondo State, plus the mammoth figure in Lagos State and the other states, it becomes clear lots of people might not be able to participate in the elections, which becomes critical in a station needing change due to the social and economic crises of the past few years.
Abubakar Yusuf who spoke with The ICIR in Keffi suggested that the distribution of the PVCs should be taken to distribution centres at the ward level to make it easier for the people, saying this would
save time and energy of the people, especially INEC has extended the deadline for the PVC collection by to Sunday, January 29, 2023.
Others asked INEC to always aggressively use its social media handles in addition to running jingles and paid adverts on radio and television stations, all for the sake of encouraging registered voters to collect their PVCs, while political parties should mobilise the public, including their supporters, for early PVC collection..
A permanent solution rests with making the National Identification Number (NIN) work effectively, say some experts. Where enabling laws are duly enforced and national data bases are synchronised, there would be no need for any Continued Voter Registration (CVR) or PVC collection as the NIN, which carries a citizen’s biometric data and date of birth, can effectively replace the PVC, they say.
Next time therefore, many feel, INEC should use the NIN for the registration exercise, to deemphasize the need for any Continued Voter Registration or PVC, as well as engage in the aggressive use of the social media, as well as distribute the PVCs at the ward level, to prevent the present chaotic situation common while sapped Nigerians collect their cards in order to participate in an exercise to elect their forthcoming leaders.