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INEC and lack of innovative registration, PVCs collection

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INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu

The collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) would have come to an end at the close of work hours today. The implication of this is that those who seized the last window of registration, but were unable to collect their PVCs today will not be able to vote in the presidential and National Assembly elections come next Saturday, February 16.

 

The same fate awaits them at the March 2 governorship and states’ House of Assembly polls, where they will watch from the sidelines.

Sadly, most of those who registered and are unable to collect their PVCs and would be disenfranchised are not to blame for this sorry situation. Observers, who spoke to The Guardian blamed the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is yet to overcome its cumbersome process for ease of registration and collection of PVCs, for the bottleneck.

Consequently, out of the 84,004,084 voters on INEC’s register, less than two third maybe able to exercise their democratic right to elect their preferred representatives.

 

Since the beginning of the week, many Nigerians have abandoned their workplaces and businesses just to fish out their elusive PVCs from INEC’s offices nationwide. Many Nigerians have lost interest in the process and resolved to cynical conclusions that the PVC collection process was made difficult, not just to frustrate them, but to rig the polls long before elections.

All this in spite of INEC’s repeated assurances that no Nigerian would be left behind unattended to. The stories emanating from PVC collection centres are anything but cheering. A cross section of respondents is angry that the process is not seamless and hitch-free. They complain that they had on a number of occasions left home as early as 5am just to collect their PVCs without luck. Those who have had to change their voting locations or resolve other problems with their PVCs face similar situation and will not be able to vote.

In fact, a respondent who registered at Igando/Ikotun Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Lagos said he was lucky a friend picked up his PVC on the outskirts of Okerube, where a large number of cards were dumped sometime ago. He said many of his relations and friends were yet to collect theirs a day to the end of the exercise. A young lady at Jakande Estate, Isolo, said she would abandon everything yesterday and today to go to Isolo LCDA by Aswani to try to collect her PVC. She lamented that she was in danger of not being able to vote.

While a majority of Nigerians are not able to collect their PVCs, some have been lost to a fire incident in Abia State, when an INEC office was razed by fire set by yet-to-be identified arsonists.

Spokesperson for All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said there is a bit of problem with collection, especially with those who were transfering from one location to another, but otherwise INEC has done well with the process. He also said no human institution is without problem, and advised those who had not collected their PVCs to work harder at it so they don’t get disenfranchised.

While the commission seems helpless in the face of complains across the country, INEC is being urged to evolve innovative ways to mitigate the process in future. While it may be too late for this political season, how is INEC working to innovate the process? When will the next registration circle start so those who haven’t collected or registered could do so without hassles? Will INEC throw its doors open soon after the inauguration next May for fresh registration to start? Will those who attained 18 years next June be registered soon afterwards?

More importantly, in an era of ICT and innovative technology, is it possible for INEC to work with the commercial banks so PVCs could be made available in just the same manner as Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are given to bank account holders in minutes? Many respondents, though skeptical at first, soon had their faces widening in smiles when the process was explained to them how INEC could work with banks to issue PVCs to Nigerians.

 

Their responses ranged from, ‘oh, that will make it easy’, ‘oh, will INEC allow it to work?’ to, ‘when will it start?’

A political science lecturer at Michael Ajasin University, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, Dr. Funmi Olorunfemi, blamed Nigerians for always waiting till the last minute before attending to such matters, and wondered why Nigerians behaved so. She said she collected her PVC since March, but charged INEC to start its campaign early, saying it came pretty late this time. She stated that she was aware that there were long queues, but encouraged Nigerians to register long before election to avoid rush.

On the possibility of INEC working with banks to issue PVCs as banks’ ATMs, Olorunfemi, although skeptical about how such process would work, commended its innovativeness as a possible way of making the process seamless.

According to her, “I don’t know how that can work, but it’s innovative. It’s a novel, radical idea; it can work, but I don’t know… I’m trying to wrap my head around it. The logistics will probably be a nightmare, but who knows? It just might work.”

 

TheGuardian 

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