From Romanus Ugwu. Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that over eight million printed Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) are still waiting for collection by their respective owners.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, made the disclosure when the European Union Electoral Follow-up Mission to Nigeria, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders compared notes with the Commission at a roundtable last weekend in Abuja.
Giving a summary of the Commission’s preparations towards the 2019 general elections, Prof. Yakubu said: “The most important thing for us as we plan towards 2019, is the effectiveness of our plan. We have a Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021 and we have along with that, a Strategic Programme of Action.
“We have just completed the draft Election Project Plan for 2019. Hopefully next week, we will come up with a figure of what it will cost this nation to conduct the 2019 general elections.
“We have benefitted from the numerous elections that we have conducted. As at today, we have conducted elections into 172 constituencies since the 2015 general elections. The last election was few weeks ago in Gombe, the next election is in eight days in Sokoto, followed by the Anambra governorship elections. We have issued the timetable for Ekiti and Osun (governorship elections),” he said.
Prof Yakubu also spoke on the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, pointing out that: “The credibility of elections depends on the credibility of the Voter Register. We are now doing it continuously. We have seen some challenges and we are responding to them.
“We started in April and as at last week, and we have registered 3.2 million (Nigerians) on top of the 70 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections that we had before. Our projection is that the Voter Register will probably be over 80 million by 2019.
“Let me add that about eight million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were yet to be collected by their respective owners. We haven’t made much progress in the last two years (but) we have made elaborate arrangements with the states to ensure that the cards are collected,” he said
On the November 18 Anambra governorship election, he said: “We are combining the governorship election with the Idemili North state constituency election. There will be two ballot boxes and voters will receive two ballot papers. All the other arrangements – logistics, staff training, and security are in place. We are killing two birds with one stone.
“And for the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria, 37 political parties are contesting in the Anambra election. Out of the 14 activities lined up, we have executed nine. We are so determined as a Commission to make the 2019 general elections better than 2015,” he added.
The INEC boss equally allayed the fears by some stakeholders that the security agencies could postpone the election at the last minute, noting that although, the responsibility of securing the environment before, during and after elections was not within the Commission’s jurisdiction, the Commission has however maintains a close relationship with all security agencies through the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
He said: “That is why we have also decided as a Commission to issue the timetable and schedule of activities well ahead of all elections. In Anambra, we issued the timetable in February for an election that will take place in November. We have done the same for Ekiti and Osun. We have taken care, in both cases, to avoid party politics, national festivals and students’ examinations. The last (governorship) election in Ekiti took place on June 14. But June next year is likely to coincide with the fasting period and Salah, and since the law says that we should conduct the election at least 30 days to the end of the tenure (of the incumbent), we shifted it to July when there is no festival or examination. The same for Osun – instead of August 4, we’ll conduct the election in September. Interestingly in Osun’s case, we have given a one-year notice and we have always made copies of the timetable and schedule of activities available to the security agencies. But we’ll continue to talk to the security agencies.”