There is no doubt that the prompt distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to all eligible voters by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would go a long way to ensure the success of the 2019 general election. It will also make the election free, fair and credible. We strongly believe that making available the PVCs to all the registered voters before the commencement of the election in February next year will also ensure that no voter is disenfranchised. Considering the importance of mass participation in the poll, we, therefore, call on the electoral agency to keep to its promise of delivering the PVCs to their owners.
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However, the reported poor distribution/collection of PVCs in some parts of the country will vitiate the electoral agency’s plan to conduct a transparent election next year, if nothing is done now to address the problem. But this is not a problem that the electoral agency alone will solve. Therefore, it is important that INEC, political parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and concerned Nigerians must work in concert to ensure that all registered Nigerian voters collect their PVCs. It will be recalled that during the 2015 elections, the PVCs national collection rate was put at over 80 per cent. And that was encouraging. We doubt that the PVCs collection rate for the 2019 exercise has reached that mark. However, a national distribution average of above 75 per cent would be acceptable.
As at August 2019, about 7,458,291 PVCs are reportedly yet to be collected nationwide. Some of the affected states include Lagos (1,380,142); Oyo (621,437); Edo (443,705); Osun (410,832); Ogun (408,403); Imo (370,202); Ondo (360,863); FCT (256,069); Kogi (246,897); Rivers (228,911); and Ekiti (220,573). With more new registration of voters across the country, there are fears that there may be over 10 million PVCs that are yet to be distributed. It is equally comforting that INEC has assured Nigerians that the PVCs would become available by November and that the distribution of the cards to their owners would continue until some weeks to the February 2019 election. This is good because the seamless distribution of the PVCs is indeed one of the steps to ensure the success of the election.
In view of many uncollected PVCs, INEC should ensure that the PVCs reach their owners before the elections. We enjoin all registered voters to collect their PVCs. All political parties and civil society groups should enlighten eligible voters on the need to collect their PVCs. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other relevant agencies must play their part to ensure the speedy distribution of the PVCs as we approach the elections. It is regrettable that the collection process of the PVCs is currently too cumbersome and time-wasting. Potential collectors, sometimes, have to visit the INEC offices and designated collection points several times before they are able to collect their PVCs. Some Nigerians have suggested that the distribution of the PVCs should be eased by arranging them according to alphabetical order. Alternatively, INEC can send text messages to owners of the uncollected PVCs on how and where to collect them.
The collection of the PVCs should be simplified. We believe that the prompt distribution of the cards would correct the erroneous impression that the difficulties encountered by some registered voters in collecting their PVCs may be deliberately created to encourage corruption. Making the collection of PVCs difficult, may force the owners to part with some money. Already, there are reports that people are being extorted before they can obtain their PVCs. INEC should also investigate the allegation. We say this because Nigerians should not be extorted before they can obtain their PVCs. The 2019 election is vital to the survival of our democracy. The electoral umpire must work towards ensuring that no eligible voter is disenfranchised.