By Henry Uche
Following the untold frustration Nigerians are experiencing at different Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) collection centres across the country, an advocate of sustainable justice body, Global Rights – Nigeria, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to address logistics challenges impeding citizens from collecting their PVCs without pains.
In a statement, its Executive Director, Abiodun Baiyewu, said the group went on field work to see the level of progress at different PVCs collection centres, and discovered unprecedented pains Nigerians are going through to collect their PVCs as they encounter diverse encumbrances, bottlenecks and albatrosses in the process.
According to her, there were reported cases of unprinted and missing PVCs and some uncivil attitude of some INEC officials, saying: “Despite INEC’s declaration that official collection hours are 9am to 3pm, there have been reports of INEC officials resuming at about 11 am each day at some of the collection centres, resulting in people having to wait in line for more than four hours before any INEC official shows up, and then having to contend with long queues due to the late commencement.
“Notwithstanding the fact that we commend INEC for extending the dates for the collection of PVCs both at the ward level and local government secretariat levels, we are concerned that the logistics for the distribution of the cards have been hampered by hiccups in the management of the process.”
According to her, there is need for INEC to improve citizens’ access to participate in the upcoming general election by improving the efficiency of logistics for the distribution of PVCs.
“INEC’s failure to resolve these issues to date suggests that a sizeable number of voters may not receive their PVCs before the new deadline elapses and thus will be unable to cast their votes.
“Several people also complained of inaccuracies in the SMSs and emails sent by INEC to some registered voters, instructing them to pick up their cards in a particular ward, but redirected to another after spending hours in long queues.
“We, therefore, urge INEC to hastily resolve these challenges to enable citizens to fulfil their civic obligation as the extended PVCs collection deadline draws near. This has become not only relevant but imperative to addressing the recurrent issue of voter apathy that has characterised elections in Nigeria. We will continue to monitor the process and call on Nigerians not to relent in the face of structural inhibitions but rather to demand accountability for smooth, transparent, free and fair elections,” she said.
Baiyewu acknowledged the efforts of the commission in ensuring no citizen is disenfranchised in the forthcoming elections, however, expressed concern about the needless hurdles Nigerians are being subjected to in obtaining their permanent voters’ cards.
“While monitoring PVCs collection centres in the Federal Capital Territory, we noted that while the collection process has been smooth in some locations, the situation in other locations, serving larger populations, leaves much to be desired.
“Global Rights applauds the patriotic enthusiasm displayed by citizens in collecting their PVCs which is an indication of their willingness to be active at the polls. It would be an unacceptable disservice to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy for INEC to disenfranchise (willing and eligible) voters due to a flawed collection process, as their continued frustration may trigger their resignation and deepen distrust for the electoral process,” she said.