By Jubril Baba, FrancisAkinnodi, Jimoh Ahmed &Martins Fasusi
People of Ondo State yesterday turned out in large number to collect their Permanent Voters Cards and to register in what appeared to be a last minute rush.
Hundreds of the electorate, who were yet to collect their Permanent Voters Card or register seized the opportunity of the holiday announced by the State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, to do so.
Reports from across the state showed that the electorate came out in their large number for the exercise as party leaders were seen mobilising people.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials had a hectic task in attending to the crowd that came to the local government secretariats for the exercise.
The local government office of the commission along Oda Road, also in Akure witnessed a large crowd due to the influx of people at the tail end of the exercise.
It would be recalled that the state government had declared yesterday (Thursday) as public holiday to enable civil servants and private workers to participate in the exercise.
The State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Rufus Akeju, who spoke with The Hope through the Head of Electoral Operations, Mr. Tope Aina, disclosed that 1,659,186 voters were registered in 2016 as eligible voters.
Akeju added that an additional 151,648 voters have been captured via the continous Voter Registration programme.
According to him, “those who engaged in multiple registrations will eventually have their registrations cancelled.”
The REC chairman, described the turnout of the intending voters as huge, adding that many people decided to stay back till the last day of the extension.
Asked on whether the commission will extend the exercise again, Akeju said the issue of extension is a policy issue that has to be decided by the commission.
He explained that the decision to use the local government offices of the commission across the state for the exercise enabled him to monitor the exercise effectively.
Speaking on the exercise, the State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Engr. Ade Adetimehin, described the turn-out as encouraging.
Adetimehin said the turnout during the exercise, was an indication of its importance to the people of the state towards sustaining our democracy as a country.
According to him,’ “The people of the state were actually happy with the declaration of the day as a work-free day by the state government to enable them register for their PVCs and to lodge complaints that have to do with their PVCs.”
The chairman noted that at the end of the exercise, the state will be better for it.
The State Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Korede Duyile, called on the people of the state to use the last day (Friday) to get themselves registered and collect their PVCs.
Duyile also called on INEC to prepare very well for the exercise as he noted that there were many people across the 18 local government areas of the state that have not been attended to by the commission with regards to their various complaints.
He urged the commission to rise to its responsibility to distribute the yet to be collected PVCs to the owners.
In an interview with The Hope, one of the intending voters, Mr. Gbolahan Awomada, called for the extension of the exercise to enable those who are yet to resolve all the issues with their PVCs have it done.
Awomada said the use of only local government office of the commission for the exercise is not enough to make the exercise successful, appealing to the commission to create more venues for a better result from the exercise.
He noted that the exercise was very stressful as the process was slow because of the crowd.
He explained that the commission should create offices for the exercise in each ward
Report from Akoko stated that the public holiday granted to civil servants by the Ondo State Government to enable them collect their PVCs encouraged a huge turnout of prospective voters in all the six local government areas of Ondo North Senatorial District.
At the INEC office in Ikare Akoko, headquarters of Akoko Northeast Local Government, the place was like a “Mecca” as prospective voters who were desirous of getting their Permanent Voter Cards besieged the place as they turned up as early as 7:30 am.
Some who came out earlier were surprised to meet crowd at the gate of the office also waiting for the same purpose.
When our correspondent visited the place at about 8.00 am, many people were seen around the premises, waiting to be attended to. At a time, the whole place became rowdy as people became impatient.
The arrival of the council boss, Mr Rafiu Eniayewu, did not change the situation as his appeal to the people to conduct themselves in an orderly manner was not taken.
Speaking to our reporter, Eniayewu appealed to the Federal Government to extend the closing date so that many would not be disenfranchised.
According to him, many of those who turned up for the exercise may not have the opportunity of being registered in view of the fact that the closing date is too near.
He lamented the available number of capturing machines for the exercise saying it is grossly inadequate.
Meanwhile, Eniayewu has appealed to the staff of INEC to make it a priority to attend to those coming to register for the first time and leave those coming to transfer their cards or coming to replace lost or damaged PVCs as they could still do that anytime before the election.
Similarly, the Supervisory Councillor for Community and Chieftaincy Matters in the council, Alaba Oladimeji appealed to the government for an extension of the closing date so that many people who are living outside the council area could be attended to.
Alaba also called on the government and INEC to consider taking the exercise to all the wards in view of the long distance those outside the local government headquarters have to travel before getting to the INEC office which is situated many kilometers from most towns in the area.
A prospctive voter, Mrs Ademola Funmilayo while berating the manner in which the exercise was conducted called on INEC to extend the PVC collection period.
Mrs Ademola also appealed to the Federal Government to make the exercise an easy one for the people by putting in place more and adequate data capturing machines.
Reports from Akoko Northwest, Akoko Southeast, Southwest, Owo and Ose Local governments were all similar.
Report from Ondo South Senatorial District showed that the people of the district trooped out in large number to participate in the continuous voting exercise.
At Ilaje local government INEC office, it was a survival of the fittest as the crowd was struggling to be registered.
Many of the prospective voters expressed their dissatisfaction at the slow process and described the use of three machines for the entire Ilaje local government as grossly inadequate.
An INEC official, Mr. Adekunle Oyesaanu described the exercise as a huge success considering the turnout of the people .
The situation was similar in Odigbo Local Government as the chairman of the local government, Prince George Adenikinju moved round to monitor the exercise so as to ensure full compliance by eligible voters.
Adenikinju commended the state government for declaring the holiday, which he said will give opportunity to the working class to participate in the exercise.
Also, in Okitipupa, the local government chairman , Mrs. Morenike Alaka moved round with her team to monitor the exercise.
At the INEC office, the council chairman charged the people to see the exercise as part of their civic responsibilities.
While speaking with our correspondent, one of the intending voters, Mr. Tosin Oladipupo expressed satisfaction over the exercise but pleaded with the Federal Government and INEC to extend it due to the shortage of machines and hitches recorded at the beginning.
Caretaker Chairman, Ondo East Local Government, Hon. Rafiu Ayodeji Akinkuolie said that he had met with relevant stakeholders to improve the process of registration and collection of PVCs in Ondo East. No doubt there were issues but all is settled now.
“We have mobilised people in all the ten wards in the council; all communities are well mobilised for the exercise because it ends on August 31 and we want every citizen above 18years to participate.
“We even mobilised the INEC by providing them fuel and generator where necessary and other needs within our capacity”.
He, however, appealed to Ondo residents to use the opportunity to register for the PVC, saying over two thousand PVCs were yet to be collected in the council area.
Akinkuolie added that the right to vote is a civic obligation fundamental to the entrenchment of democracy in the country.
When our correspondent visited INEC offices in Ondo West and Ondo East council areas people were seen in their hundreds as early as 7:00am to collect their PVCs.
A student, Babatola Ayoola described the process as too slow saying some registered voters spent between a month and weeks trying to claim their cards. “Now, many left their homes as early as 7 am without being attended to.
“Some people even left the INEC office with anger after waiting for hours. I believe the holiday was a welcome development and government should please talk to the INEC officials”.
“Above all, political parties have a crucial role to play”, said an INEC official who did not want his name in print.
He said, “It is not only the duty of INEC, but that of every stakeholder, particularly political parties, to ensure that their supporters know the importance of voting.
“We have thousands of PVCs yet to be collected in Ondo West and our office is always open. Now our officials are the wards trying to register voters, to make the process easy for all”.
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