Unless urgent steps are taken by the federal government, over 11 million voters may be disenfranchised in the 2023 general elections due to the worsening security situation in the South East region.
Data from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that the South East has 10.9 million registered voters while 930,000 PVCs are ready for collection by new registrants.
This new set of voters was unable to come out yesterday for the second phase distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by INEC due to the sit-at-home order imposed on the residents by the separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
INEC could not commence the exercise yesterday in Anambra State as a result of fears by its personnel as well as the registered voters of possible attack by hoodlums enforcing the sit-at-home being observed in the entire South East region every Monday.
Though the Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB, which earlier ordered the every Monday sit-at-home as part of the group’s strategies to persuade the federal government to free their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is in incarceration in Kuje prison from where he has been standing trial in court on charges bordering on treason, had following wide condemnation of the order by the people, because of its severe effects on the economy and wellbeing of the people in the region, cancelled the order, hoodlums had since then been enforcing the sit-at-home, attacking and killing people for coming out on Mondays.
Findings by LEADERSHIP revealed that the PVCs distribution could not commence at the 21 local governments across the state as both INEC personnel and registered voters stayed away from the Commission’s local government offices where the PVCs distribution were designated to take place because of fear of possible attack by hoodlums.
Some registered voters who were contacted said that they would prefer to go for the collection of their PVCs any other day, not on Mondays.
“I will go to check for my PVC as from tomorrow (today), but not on Mondays because I don’t want to be attacked by those unknown gunmen who are enforcing sit-at-home”, a registered voter who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity said.
When contacted, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Anambra State, Mrs Queen Elizabeth Agwu, told LEADERSHIP in a telephone interview that though she deployed personnel from her office to commence the PVCs distribution, she, however, could not go round to monitoring the distribution because of fear of possible attack by hoodlums enforcing the sit-at-home.
“I called some of my personnel at the local governments and they told me that they are at their local governments for the commencement of PVCs distribution, but I couldn’t go out to supervise them because of possible attack by those enforcing sit-at-home.
“As a policy I don’t just deploy my personnel to distribute the PVCs, I also go round myself to monitor to make sure that the distribution is going on, and to entertain and address any problem that may arise, but as you can see, because of the peculiar situation in the state, I mean the sit-at-home being enforced here every Monday, I couldn’t go out.”
The state INEC boss, however, promised that she would go round the state to supervise the PVCs distribution every day, except on Mondays.
Some of the people who spoke to our correspondent said they were afraid to come out of their houses because of the shootings by enforcers of the order in some parts of Enugu last Saturday.
A resident of Kenyatta Street, Obinna Ogbonna , said he managed to go to INEC office in the morning hours but did not see anybody to attend to him.
Other residents who spoke to our correspondent said they may not even go to INEC office until the expiration of the five days Sit-At-Home.
A member of Voice of the Oppressed, an NGO based in Enugu, Nwabueze Anoyua urged the security operatives to provide security for people to participate in the exercise.
The nationwide takeoff collection of PVCs in Imo State is similarly confronted with challenges such as insecurity and low turn up of the citizenry.
The apprehension among the populace and the INEC officials affected the exercise tremendously as the populace exhibited reluctance in coming out for the exercise.
The people were seen in trickles queuing up for the exercise in the INEC centre visited and few officials were seen attending to them.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP, Ikenna Uzondu expressed astonishment at the level of desperation on the part of non-state actors to derail the system.
According to him, it takes courage to appear for the collection exercise, going by the level of insecurity prevalent in the state. He called on the state and federal government to take proactive steps and fish out perpetrators of the crime.
In his contribution, the director of development dynamics, Dr. Jude Ohanele urged the federal government to beef up security across INEC offices nationwide.
He urged the state government to set up local vigilante outfits in the local government areas.
Dr. Ohanele called on the state government and security agents to embark on massive intelligence gathering and urgent sensitization and enlightenment aimed at identifying the culprits of heinous crimes in the society.
He urged the government to find a way of restoring the confidence of the people in the system, so as to enable them to respond positively to the collection of the PVCs exercise.
Ensure Voters Get Their PVCs, Obi Urges Security Agencies
The Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council of the Labour Party (LP) has urged the security agencies to ensure that Nigerians are not disenfranchised as a result of insecurity.
According to Obi, security agencies must do their work to enable Nigerians to collect their PVCs.
LEADERSHIP reports that as INEC rolls out the PVC collection, several people especially in the South East shunned the collection centres as a result of insecurity.
Gunmen in the South East have destroyed several INEC offices, which has made several people stay away from their offices, especially on Mondays as a result of the sit-at-home order.
But speaking to LEADERSHIP last night, the spokesman of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, who is also a former national chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), the umbrella body of all political parties in the country, Dr Yunusa Tanko, said it is unacceptable for Nigerians to be disenfranchised as a result of insecurity.
“It is very important that we call on the security agencies to protect lives and properties as enshrined in the constitution. Security agencies must provide security for everybody to go out and collect their PVCs. Citizens should also come out and perform their rights. We’ve seen attacks on INEC offices. Citizens must come out and demand for their rights,” Tanko said.
“As much as we are calling on our members to be Obedient, they must take their security and safety seriously and demand their rights. Nigerians must insist on security because it will affect their franchise and every aspect of life.
“So, we are calling on the nation’s security agencies to ensure that Nigerians are not prevented from performing their rights,” Tanko added.
In some parts of the country, the collection of the PVCs went smoothly while it ran into hitches in others. In the same way, the turnout was high in some states and low in others
For instance, at the Uyo Traditional Rulers Council (TRC) building, where the ongoing collection, replacement and transfer of the Permanent Voter Cards for eligible voters in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, was held, low turnout characterised the exercise.
Besides, there were protests by others who were turned back after the 3pm.deadline, as officials of INEC could not continue the exercise after the closing period.
“I came here since morning, but the sorting was too slow and I had to return to the office to take care of some files, only to return some minutes to 3pm, but was turned back by INEC officials, who asked me to come tomorrow.”, Offiong Udoffot, a civil servant told our Correspondent.
Inemesit Akpan, complaint of a case of mistaken identity, lamenting that “the card they gave to me has my name correct, but the picture on it is that of a different person.”
“I really wanted to vote, but because of this mixed-up now, they are telling me to wait for the next election in 2027, that there’s nothing they could do. Why should INEC superimpose another person’s photograph on my name?” She queried.
Other protesters asked INEC to “extend the registration hours to 4:00pm, and even beyond, to be able to capture more eligible voters”, who, according to them, could be disenfranchised.
An INEC official, who claimed “we are not allowed to talk to the media”, identified “sorting of names, missing of names and other logistical issues” as hampering the exercise.
“My name is Silas, from Ward 1, unit 30, I was told that they have seen my name, but on getting here, they couldn’t find it,” one of the protesting eligible voters, told our correspondent.
In Ekiti the collection of the PVCs was low, as was witnessed in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital on Monday.
Our correspondent, who visited the Ado Ekiti local government area office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), observed that only few people turned up to collect their PVCs.
Quite a good number of INEC officials who were available at the office for the exercise had fewer electorate to attend to.
An official of the electoral body who spoke on the condition of anonymity said though he had no authority to disclose the number of people who had come to collect their PVCs, the turnout was not encouraging.
He said, “We have been here since around 7:30am in the morning awaiting the people to come and collect their PVCs. Only a few people turned up and 95 percent of them were able to collect without any hitch.
“Our major challenge is the people who are not bringing the slip given to them during registration and incorrect data to access their data”.
Some of the registered voters in Kaduna State who failed to collect their PVCs on the first day of the exercise attributed it to fuel scarcity and high transport fares.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Kaduna, one of the voters, Charles Alom, who resides in Sabon Tasha said, “The transport fare now is almost double in Kaduna as a result of fuel scarcity. I don’t have enough money now to transport myself to go collect my PVC but I will collect because I must vote in 2023 polls”
Another voter, Adams Sule, said, “You said today collection of PVCs starts, I will collect mine but not today. Anytime I can go and collect. I will vote in the 2023 elections.”
The turnout was low in Rivers State.
LEADERSHIP observed that there was as low turnout of voters at centres in Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state.
Efforts to get the spokesperson of INEC in Rivers State, proved abortive but an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said failure of voters to collect their PVCs may affect the 2023 general election in the state.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt, the chairman of tbc Rivers State Civil Society Organization, Enefaa Georgewill, attributed the low turn out to the way INEC has managed it’s affairs in recent times.
Enefaa said: “For us in the Rivers State Civil Society Organizations, we think that the new low interest of citizens to collect PVCs, is directly connected to the way and manner INEC have managed its affairs, especially in the area of registration, cancelation of some registration because of minor error and inability of INEC to communicate properly how the BVAS will end the regime of electoral fraud.”
“The way forward for us is for INEC to begin to win the confidence of the people by collaborating with other stakeholders like the media, civil society and security agencies to properly explain in detail how this election will be free from violence and how the BVAS machine will function.
INEC in Yobe State said the low rate of collection of the PVCs was worrisome.
The commission converted a number of voting points into standalone polling units.
Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in large numbers stormed the FCT headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at Area 10, Garki, to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC).
It was observed that as early as 8 am on Monday, over 500 people from the six area councils of the FCT were already at the main entrance gate of the INEC office, waiting for the gate to open for them to gain entrance to the collection points inside the premises.
Because of the large crowd of people outside the gate, security personnel initially refused to open the gate for them to enter, until the people became agitated and threatened to pull off the entrance gate if they were denied the right to collect their PVC.
However, over 20 security personnel later decided to organise the people and ensure that they gain entrance into the premises in an orderly manner and batches before the commencement of the PVC collection process.
Residents of Ilorin, Kwara State yesterday thronged the INEC offices in the metropolis to collect their PVCs.
The INEC offices at Akerebiata in Ilorin East local government and Bode- Saadu in Moro local government area were jam-packed by the people seeking to collect their PVCs .
The INEC officials who attended to the people ensured orderliness in the distribution of the PVCs.
It was first come, first serve as the INEC officials had given a number on a piece of paper to each person as they arrived at the place.
They are attending to 10 persons at a go, after which they would still call another 10 persons to enter the inner office.
The offices of INEC in Taraba particularly in Jalingo, the state capital witnessed massive crowds as people gathered to collect their PVCs.
During LEADERSHIP visit at the Jalingo local government secretariat, one of the collection points discovered a massive turn up where people were seen in long queues to get their PVCs.
Some of the people who spoke to our correspondent decried the slow pace at which the INEC officials were issuing the cards.
When contacted, an INEC official who was on duty at the point said the network for collection of the PVCs was normal without any delay.
In Cross River State, the collection of PVCs by electorates is said to be on the high side even though officials were unable to give the true picture of what is happening in the field as far as collection of PVCs is concerned.
At Ikot Ishie Market, INEC office, Calabar Municipality LGA of Cross River State,upon visitation by LEADERSHIP, Electoral Officer/ Assistant Director, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Mr. Soni Ezuma, stated the exercise has been wonderful.
“It’s been a wonderful experience and ofcourse Nigerians are eager to collect their cards to enable them vote.
“The eagerness has practically been translated to people coming to collect their PVCs as long as the Commission decides on January 22, 2023.
Many electorates were seen thronging in and out of INEC offices seeking for their voter cards.
In Benue State most residents at the INEC office in the North Bank were excited as they queued to collect their PVCs, especially young persons.
Our Correspondent who visited one of the INEC collection offices in the North Bank area of Makurdi, observed that most people that queued up to collect their PVCs were youths between the ages of 18 to 35.
In an interview with one of the who identified his name as Jeremiah Tor said this is the first time he will be voting.
In Niger State, the few people who turned up at the local government councils secretariat were disappointed as no officials were present to attend to them.
Sources hinted that the collection of PVCs in the state was delayed because the registrar to tick for collection was not ready.
In a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of the Commission A.A Maulud and made available to Leadership’s Media handle also confirmed that the Collection of the PVCs had begun across all the 44 local government areas of the state on Monday the 12 12. 2o22. Beginning from 9.00 am to stop at 3pm.
Katsina State experienced a high turnout for the collection of PVCs in the state.
Investigation revealed that the collection which began on Monday at 9:am and stopped around 4:pm attracted the attention of the residents across the 34 local government areas of the state.
Officials of INEC were seen at the Katsina State office, the venue for the collection, and told our correspondent that before the kickoff of the collection, the commission carried out a series of sensitization and awareness which resulted in the turn out of the people.
Meanwhile, INEC has applauded community heads and traditional rulers for their role in ensuring that the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) runs smoothly in Kogi State.
While speaking with LEADERSHIP, the Director of Information in Kogi State, Mallam AD Shuaib noted that community cooperation remains key in the sensitization of voters on the need to collect their PVCs.
He said, “We wouldn’t have achieved so much success if we had no support from the community leaders who ensured that their subjects were well informed on the need to collect PVCs ahead of the 2023 general elections.”
Shuaib also made it known that the collection of permanent voter cards didn’t stop as people have been going to their various offices to pick the voter cards.
Osun State electorate who are yet to collect theirs turned out in their numbers to collect their cards.
The exercise was seen at local government headquarters across the state. The turnout, though impressive, is not intimidating as those who came were attended to without stress.
But one of those who collected his PVC at Olorunda local government headquarters, Igbona, Osogbo, Bola Kazeem attributed the easy collection of his card to lack of adequate awareness by the prospective electorates.
But an official of the commission who spoke on condition of anonymity said there is not likely to be pressure on the Commission because most eligible electorate had collected their PVCs ahead of the July 16 governorship election in the state.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Mutiu Agboke. who made an on-the-spot assessment of the exercise across local governments in Osun on Monday, expressed satisfaction with the take off.
INEC has abruptly halted the distribution of PVCs in Misau local government area of Bauchi State.
The residents trooped to the office of the commission in Misau to get their PVCs only to be told that the exercise could not proceed without further explanation as to why and when it will resume.
A resident of Misau, on the condition of anonymity, told LEADERSHIP that “after people assembled at the Misau INEC Office to collect their PVCs, a staff of the commission appeared and informed them the exercise could not go on as expected.”
He did not respond to the calls placed through his line nor reply to the Short Message Service sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
The take-off of PVC collection in Asaba, capital of Delta state, was not noticed despite the PVC collection sensitisation.
Residents of Asaba, Delta state yesterday accused INEC of frustrating efforts at collecting their PVCs for voting in the 2023 general elections.
The youths, who cried out over what they called inhuman treatments, claimed they were on INEC premises and other centres as early as 7 a.m. to collect their PVCs but were kept waiting endlessly without any attention from officials.
Their spokesperson, who simply gave her name as Adanie, decried what she described as the lackadaisical attitude of INEC officials and deliberately shutting their doors against them.
Shortage Of Personnel Mars Distribution In Ogun
In Ogun State, officials of the INEC had a hectic time controlling crowds that besieged their offices at Akomoje and Iyana Mortuary for the collection of PVCs.
Notwithstanding the efforts put in place by officials of the commission to sanitize the collection exercise, curious PVC collectors in the two local governments of Abeokuta North and Abeokuta South LGAs still defiled the instructions of forming descent queues which the INEC officers demanded for in a ward-by-ward process that would have facilitated easy distribution.
At the time LEADERSHIP visited the Abeokuta North Local Government located in Akomoje, several other potential PVC collectors, who could not withstand the pushing and pulling of the not-too-clear queues, were seen returning home, expressing dissatisfaction about the exercise.
One of the dissatisfied electorate, Ogunwusi Monsurat Abidemi blamed the INEC officials for not providing any sitting arrangement for the people, despite the scorching sun.
Also, some of the INEC officials, who sparingly spoke with LEADERSHIP amidst fear of being quoted, explained that the commission had sorted out the PVCs according to their wards of registration, but the impatience of the collectors made distribution difficult.
The INEC officials however disclosed that the exercise would stop by 3pm according to the instruction given to them by the national headquarters of the commission in Abuja/
Speaking with LEADERSHIP on the shortage of INEC personnel for the distribution, the national secretary of Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Comrade Yinka Folarin, appealed to the commission to address the matter in order not to disenfranchise any eligible voter in the country.