by Cosmas Ezeoke (Leadership)
Stakeholders in the electoral process, including the Civil Society Organisations, have expressed worry at the fixing of January by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the collection of the new Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
LEADERSHIP reports that INEC had informed Nigerians carrying out voter registration that they will not be able to obtain their PVCs until January next year.
The comment, which has generated several reactions, is seen by some people as a ploy to disenfranchise them in the 2023 general elections which commences in February 2022.
Specifically, CSOs have opposed the January deadline for the collection of the new PVCs, saying it is too close to the 2023 general elections.
The CSOs said INEC must ensure that people who registered this year get their PVCs before December 1, 2022, expressing concern that once it is January there will not be effective distribution of the voter cards.
The CSOs who spoke to LEADERSHIP are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) Transparency International (TI) and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs said INEC must improve its efficiency.
He said, “How will you register people and say their cards will be ready in six months?
“Why are we prolonging this? INEC has been given all the necessary financial support to be able to do the needful.
“If they said that until January for people who are registering now to be able to collect their PVC, they are already creating pandemonium in the lives of Nigerians. I think INEC should ensure that any Nigerian that registers must get their PVC before January, ” Rafsanjani said.
According to the CSOs, “With this court pronouncement that INEC cannot stop the registration process now, I think it is important for INEC to ensure that all these do not affect the election as scheduled.
“INEC must ensure that the election is not postponed. We don’t want any further delay. INEC must ensure that PVCs of people registering now are ready before January.”
Meanwhile, the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) , an umbrella body of all political parties in Nigeria, has said that the electoral umpire might not be working for certain interests and encourage Nigerians to get ready to collect their PVCs whenever they are ready.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP last night, the chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, urged Nigerians not to be discouraged but to maintain the momentum and ensure that they vote in the 2023 general elections.
“The important thing is that INEC must get the biometrics and verify the people. You know that it takes a process for them to get these things ready.
“Those who are really interested in voting will make sure they collect their voter cards. Some people may not be interested but I can see that the kind of interest Nigerians have for this election, people must collect their cards. If the cards are already in January, we still have February to go. You have almost two weeks until the actual election. So, those who are really interested will make sure they collect their PVCs,
“You know that INEC, from what I’ve heard, they are also trying to have mobilisers. They are also interested in the election and I don’t think they are working for any individual interest,” Sani added.
New Registrants Will Wait Till January For PVCs – INEC
Meanwhile, INEC has disclosed that Nigerians who are currently registering in the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise would get their Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) in January 2023, a month to the general elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for the FCT, Yahaya Bello, said if the CVR exercise ends on June 30 this year or any other date, fresh registrants will still have to wait till next year.
Bello disclosed this during a press conference held at the venue of the ongoing “open air PVC registration” yesterday in Abuja in furtherance of the ongoing CVR-INEC partnership with the European Union (EU) Youth Vote Count 2 programme.
“Those who are registering now will not be able to get their card immediately as it is a process. So if it ends on 30th June or another date they will have to wait until next year.
“The collection of the card will be in January 2023. This card will not be collected by proxy but by the individuals themselves,” Bello said.
He, however, commended the EU for the partnership, adding that the commission had deployed over 50 voter registration machines and 150 staff members to meet the needs of registrants at the ongoing open air PVC registration.
Bello said the deployment of the high number of machines and staff members was to ensure that many intended registrants were captured during the one-week exercise.
He said that while the CVR had been going on for over a year, the EU was partnering with INEC to ensure more people came out for registration.
He, however, said that the CVR registration at the INEC offices in the six Abuja area councils will continue till June 30 when the programme would end.
Also speaking at the event, the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, urged the youths to get their PVCs and use their large numbers to achieve the Nigeria of their dreams.
He said, “As of 2019, we had 84 million registered voters, 51 per cent of that are youth. Now we have started new registration, and from the figures, we have the youth between 18 and 39 years with the highest percentage.
EU programme manager, Political Governance and Democracy Section, Olawumi Laolu, said the purpose of the partnership was to get the youth involved in the election of leaders in the country.
The “open air PVC registration” taking place at the Old Parade Ground in Abuja holding from June 20 to June 25 will end with the music concert by celebrities, tagged “Youths Vote Count 2.0 Mega Concert’.’’
Laolu said the purpose of the partnership programme fully funded by the EU was to get more Nigerian youths involved in the electoral process by registering through the ongoing CVR and voting on election day.
In his remarks, INEC director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Ayodele Aluko, commended Abuja residents for coming out en masse to register through the open air registration programme.
Aluko said the commission thought people’s turnout for the event in the first two days would be low but it turned out to be overwhelming and encouraging.
“For us in INEC we are seeing this as a positive development. Many people are interested in voting,” Aluko said.
The executive director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said the partners were committed to providing more youths with a platform to register and vote in future elections.
He said that Nigeria could not continue to have a high number of youth who would not be participating in elections.
He said that Yiaga Africa had already appealed to INEC to extend the deadline for CVR in order for more Nigerians to register.
He explained that on Saturday, there will be a concert where celebrities committed to Nigeria’s democratic project would not just entertain the youth but also mobilise them to participate in the coming elections.
He said the open air registration would continue until noon on Friday, while the concert would start till 5pm.
It was learnt that to access the concert, interested persons have to present their PVCs.
Catholic Church Advocates PVC Sensitisation At Worship Centres
The Catholic Church of Nigeria, through the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, has called on INEC officials to visit worship centres to speak to worshippers on the need to get their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) as was done in Lagos State.
This was made known in a statement entitled, ‘The 2023 General Elections In Nigeria And The Imperatives Of Citizens’ Active Participation’ jointly signed by Rev. Fr. Uchechukwu Obodoechina, director, Church and Society,
The executive secretary, Caritas Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Michael ‘Leke Banjo, director, Pastoral Affairs, Deputy Secretary-General, and Rev. Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso SamJumi, secretary-general.
The Catholic Church said that the 2023 General Elections call for the active participation of all citizens in the tedious electoral process, and this process begins with eligible voters who have attained the age of 18 to register and obtain their PVCs.
The Catholic Church said the PVC, as an instrument that enables citizens to participate in the democratic process of choosing their political leaders, empowers them to promote good governance, the kind that puts the common good ahead of all other interests.
“All qualified citizens are, therefore, encouraged to participate actively in the process of choosing those who take charge of the affairs of this nation at the various levels of governance. We cannot afford to be indifferent.
“We commend those priests who, through different legitimate means, have vigorously encouraged the faithful entrusted to their care to acquire their PVCs. We ask such priests not to relent. However, in our bid to encourage all to obtain their PVCs, utmost care must be taken not to deprive the people of those means that Christ, through the Church, has made available for the nourishment and salvation of their souls.”
According to the statement, the church and its ministers must, at all times, promote, respect, and defend those rights that are fundamental to the human person, one of such being the right to private and public worship.
Prosecute Vote Buyers in Ekiti, Peace Committee, EU, Others Tell Security Agencies
The National Peace Committee (NPC) co-chair, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, have called on the security agencies to prosecute people involved in vote buying in the just concluded gubernatorial election in Ekiti state.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including Yiaga Africa and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), in their various reports of the election, had alleged widespread vote buying but the governor-elect, Biodun Oyebanji, during a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, denied any involvement in buying votes during the polls.
A statement issued by Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar said punishing those who were involved in vote buying will serve as a deterrent to others.
While commending the peaceful nature of the exercise and the good turnout, the Peace Committee noted that there glitches, as it condemned the reported incidence of voter inducement.
“We strongly decry the incidence of vote-buying recorded during the elections and urge the security agencies to ensure that investigations are conducted, that all perpetrators of this anti-democratic acts are prosecuted and brought to justice with the provisions in the electoral law. The practice of vote-buying undermines the values which underpin our democratic life.
“It reduces the privileged selection of those who steward our commonwealth through our electoral processes, as being transactional. We must hold to account all who would muddy the springs from which we as a people seek to drink from collectively by such actions of bribery, both the giver and receiver”, it said.
The committee further enjoined the winner of the election, Mr. Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to be magnanimous in victory by collaborating with the citizens of Ekiti State, especially his co-contestants, in the governance process of the state for the benefit of Ekiti’s sons and daughters, both home and abroad.
It advised those with complaints against the election to canvas their positions in court.
Also, the delegations of the European Union (EU) to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have called on the federal government to take steps to address the worrisome issue of vote buying during elections in Nigeria.
The EU raised this concern following reported cases of vote buying that appeared to have marred an otherwise peaceful governorship election in Ekiti State last Saturday.
The EU said in a statement yesterday that “reports on vote buying need to be addressed and followed-up,” even as it encouraged voters, and in particular the youth and women, to sustain their participation beyond the elections by holding candidates accountable for their campaign promises.
The delegation commended INEC for improved logistics, including early deployment of personnel and essential materials in the majority of the polling units, better functioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and efficient electronic transmission of polling unit results to INEC’s results viewing portal.
It noted that these improvements augur well for the general election in 2023.
The EU Delegation also praised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the actions taken in Ekiti and encouraged INEC to fully implement provisions on financial control over political parties in line with the recommendations of the 2019 EU Election Observation Mission.
We’ll Give Effect To Court Order On Continuous Voter Registration – INEC
Meanwhile, the electoral umpire, INEC, has said it will give effect to the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja on the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, stated this while reacting to the court rulings on CVR registration.
“As a law-abiding institution, the Commission will comply with decisions of a court of competent jurisdiction,” he stated.
The court had directed INEC not to end voter registration on June 30 as it had planned in view of the surge of young Nigeria seeking to register for their voter cards in order to vote in 2023 general elections.