The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, raised the alarm that some politicians have been buying up Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, and financially inducing unsuspecting voters to harvest their Voter Identification Numbers ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The revelation by INEC, however, elicited angry reactions from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Labour Party, LP, and regional bodies such as the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum, MBF.
Politicians buying PVCs from voters, INEC raises alarm
Raising the alarm during the launch of #YourVoteMatters project by an election observer group, NESSACTION, in Abuja, the National Commissioner overseeing the FCT, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Plateau states, Mohammed Haruna, disclosed that two people were recently convicted for illegal possession of PVCs in Sokoto and Kano states.
The project, supported by the International Foundation for Electoral System, IFES, the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO, seeks to assist INEC in increasing the number of PVCs collected ahead of the 2023 general elections as well as the voters mobilised on Election Day.
Speaking, the INEC National Commissioner, said: “We are aware some politicians are more or less buying the PVCs. If you collect the PVC and then you sell it out or allow someone else to have it, you are aiding illegal possession of the PVC which is an offence in our Electoral Act.
“Some of you are aware that only recently, INEC managed to convict two people, who were found guilty of illegal possession of PVCs in Kano and Sokoto. So, I urge people to connect their PVCs, keep it safe, and make sure that on Election Day, you go out there and cast your votes because, of course, without your PVC you cannot vote.”
We’ll provide logistics — NESSACTION boss
In her remarks, Executive Director of NESSACTION, Ambassador Eniola Cole, explained that the project slated for implementation in the FCT, Nasarawa, and Plateau states, will provide logistics that will generate incentives in communities with low PVC collection rates.
Cole said: “We implore the general public to take advantage of the timeframe set by INEC for PVC collection at the Commission’s LGA offices nationwide from December 12, 2022 to January 5, 2023, and at the 8809 Registration Areas from January 6-22, 2023 including Saturdays and Sundays.
“The public can, through dedicated channels, inform us of their location to receive support including the PVC collection buses and community outreach activities to be conducted at the local level in each state by our community mobilisation officers.”
A worrisome development — PDP
Reacting to the alarm, the PDP, yesterday, described the development as worrisome and a threat to democracy if found to be true.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Debo Ologunagba, in a chat with Vanguard, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the security services to up their game by ensuring that the claim was thoroughly investigated and those found culpable in the ugly trade are apprehended and brought to justice.
Ologunagba said: “The alarm raised by INEC should not be taken lightly because in the last couple of weeks, Nigerians have seen an upsurge in the desperate tactics by the ruling All Progressives Congress, to grab and retain power by all means including the purchase of PVCs from gullible people.
“The party has weaponized poverty which it intends to use to cow Nigerians into doing its bidding.
“You will recall the trending video in which the Presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was seen and heard urging his campaign team members to grab, snatch, run away with political power by all means. The authenticity of the video has not been denied.
“Nigerians are also aware that it was the same APC candidate, who refused to sign the Peace Accord.
“The APC and its candidate have also voiced their opposition to the use of BVAS which is an innovation by INEC to improve the quality of our electoral process.
“With all of these tale signs of desperation from the outgoing ruling party, need Nigerians to look any further than the APC?
“As we speak, the APC candidate is yet to tell Nigerians what he intends to do if in the unlikely event he wins.
“The only opportunity which he was given outside the shores of this country, in Chatham House London to be precise, he bungled it by revealing to Nigerians that he intends to unleash a government by proxy.
“While we await a thorough investigation to unravel the extent to which APCs desperation has led it into seeking to criminally manipulate our electoral process to subvert the will of Nigerians, we implore our security agencies and President Buhari, to remain faithful to their promise to bequeath a credible, free and fair election come 2023.”
Those who weaponized poverty behind the purchase of PVCs — LP
On its part, the Presidential Campaign Council of the Labour Party tasked security agencies and INEC not to look any further than politicians and political parties, who have over the years, weaponized poverty when looking for masterminds of the purchase of Permanent Voter Cards.
Chief Spokesperson of the LP PCC, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, in a chat with Vanguard said: “We in the Labour Party condemn electoral crime in all its ramifications. I’m certain the politicians being described by INEC are not within our rank or file, that is why we have been taking our plea for votes directly to Nigerians.
“Our candidate has been campaigning and appearing in debates and town hall meetings because he knows the power to put him and his running mate and of course our party in office is in the hands of the people.
“We enjoin Nigerians to beware of politicians, who stole from our common patrimony while in office at one time or another.
“These are the same people who have come to use these same stolen funds to try to buy their PVCs and their votes.
“Nigerian voters should also beware that Section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As amended), makes it a criminal offence for anyone to buy or sell votes. Both offenses carry a punishment of 12 months in jail or a fine of N500,000 or both on conviction.”
INEC must invalidate stolen, bought PVCs — PANDEF
The Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, on its part, urged the electoral commission to put in place a system that would invalidate a stolen or bought Permanent Voters Card, PVCs, on the Election Day and stop crying foul.
PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said: “Now, it is left for the election management body instead of crying foul and raising alarm to put in place a system to ensure that tricks and manipulations of politicians are not allowed to prevail and that they will put models in place to strengthen the excesses of politicians.
“On the part of citizens, it is important to remind us that our vote is our right and that we will bear the consequences of whether we vote rightly or wrongly.
“Citizens should forget the immediate gains of N10,000 or any amount it is, that politicians will give to them to buy their votes before or during the election and that they should put the interest of the country and the future generation above the immediate thing to ensure that we get it right and that it is the true will of the people that will emerge at the various levels of the elections next year.
“It is left for the electoral management body to put in place necessary security mechanisms and infrastructure to ensure that if somebody boys or takes somebody’s PVC the person who bought it can’t use it.
“To have these infrastructures in place is not rocket science. It’s simply that we are in a technological age. If you have such a system in place, if anyone goes to procure or steal somebody else’s PVC, it is simply that the person can’t use it on Election Day.
“I am not sure that those systems are difficult to find and put in place. It’s rather the sincerity of purpose of the electoral body to be unbiased in all situations.
“We don’t want a situation where this so-called alarm raised by the INEC official is a diversionary measure.”
INEC left openings for manipulation — Ohanaeze
In its reaction, Ohanaeze Ndigbo blamed INEC for any manipulations they are experiencing from politicians, saying that they left openings for such manipulations.
National Publicity Secretary of the apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Dr Alex Ogbonnia said: “They ought to be the regulator. They are supposed to regulate the electoral process but the commission that is supposed to regulate the election is now complaining.
“There should be a mechanism in place to ensure things work accordingly. We are supposed to complain to them but now they are the ones complaining to us.
“If indeed there is the electronic model they are trying to use, of course, these things will not be happening.
“There is an opening for people to begin manipulating the 2023 elections. Their body language is indicating that maybe they are going away to what they presented to the public.
“They have not provided the proper mechanism to avoid all these irregularities. That is exactly what they have been doing.”
Politicians creating problems for the electoral system — Afenifere
On its part, Afenifere said it aligned with INEC on its allegation, noting that politicians were creating problems for the electoral system.
In a chat with Vanguard, a member of the National Executive Council, Mogaji Adejumo said: “Basically, INEC has been trying to do the job the way the job ought to be done and for one reason, I think INEC has tried to overcome the initial issues that have plagued our electoral system. One must give them credit for that.
“All the while, the focus has been on the elections and INEC but why would there be an issue if the practitioners (politicians) are principally fixated on ensuring we have successive electoral victories and it will be on a free and fair basis but the practitioners, that is the politicians, are the ones creating problems for the electoral system.
“You can imagine how long it took for the National Assembly to approve electronic transmission of voting; what would have been the ideal thing is to have electronic voting.
“Now that INEC has come out and they have been doing it, to say that the real saboteurs are politicians, Afenifere believes it is time Nigerians, start to query the politicians that are vying for political position.”
INEC must neutralise plans of unscrupulous politicians — MBF
Also, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, tasked INEC to take steps to invalidate and neutralise the plans by politicians.
MBF’s National President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu said: “INEC knows the exact figures on the voters’ card. We, the ordinary people, do not know what that means; to us, it means you represent a number.
“But its use and functionality are known best by INEC. If some politicians are doing what he said, they are doing, then it means that somebody somewhere has told those politicians the value of those things being harvested which they can use in rigging or in disenfranchised their opponents.
“So, INEC should put in place something that is going to neutralise whatever they are doing; because technology is something that evolves. If politicians are buying off PVCs with a view to extracting numbers, they should get their technicians now to invalidate whatever input that may come from such exercise, and that will save Nigeria.
“We know that some desperate politicians will always want to beat the system no matter how perfect you may think it is, but certainly in spite of all these challenges including this one, the BVAS technology will give us something better that what we had in the past.
“Apart from this, we will also like INEC to raise an alarm like what they are trying to do or what they have done through INEC in Borno and some of the challenged areas where they are falsely trying to create ‘super camps’ as voting areas.
“For example, there is no part of Chibok that you cannot go and conduct the election. No part of Chibok is occupied by insurgents, yet they want to create ‘super camps’. And Chibok is one of those I know that they have selected for that arrangement.
“A super camp is a place where a lot of polling units will be concentrated in one area and people from that area concerned will all concentrate at the voting cluster and vote.
“What that means is that if a politician is not rich enough to transport all his supporters to the cluster, he is automatically disenfranchised.
“This is being done in collusion with INEC and should be stopped.
“So, while they are identifying the issue of purchase of PVCs and harvesting of numbers the issue of what INEC is doing in Borno which I believe is being influenced from outside, should also be stopped.
“Yes we know that there are Local Governments that have been occupied by insurgents, the State Assembly has indicated two, the other Local Government Areas still have their people residing there and can have their elections in their local government areas.
“In Chibok, which I mentioned, every part can be accessed and elections can hold there. We know it is not the same in Danbua because the majority of the villages are deserted but it is not the same thing in Chibok.
“So, for them to come up with that blanket decision, it is just a recipe for rigging and we believe that INEC is involved in this. So, they should look at the situation because it is a recipe for rigging.”