Olakunle Olafioye; Henry Okonkwo
Shortage of personnel, slow registration process and technical hitches other than apathy on the part of the electorate in Lagos State are some of the factors responsible for the relatively high figure of uncollected Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC) in the state, findings by Sunday Sun have revealed.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently released statistics where it claimed that 7.9 million PVCs were yet to be collected. Out of the 36 states of the federation, eight states all from the southern part of the country contributed more than half of the unclaimed PVCs (56 per cent) to the 7.9 million uncollected PVCs. Five of these are South Western states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Osun. The other three states include Edo, Imo and Rivers states
The high figure of uncollected PVCs credited to the South West zone has expectedly given rise to insinuation that the development was a deliberate attempt to undermine the voting strength of the zone.
Director, Media and Public Communications, Coalition for Nigeria Movement, CNM, Mr. Akin Osuntokun recently, described the statistics as released by INEC as absurd, alleging that it was part of plots to ensure that a fewer number of voters emerge from the South and more in the North in the 2019 presidential election .
According to him, “if you look at the figures presented by INEC critically, you will see that there is a disparity that is very absurd and peculiar . And it seems that the ground is being prepared for fait accompli. I find the figures released by INEC inexplicable and a little bit absurd.
“You are saying that about 1 . 4 million PVCs have not been claimed in Lagos State but in Kano , it is less than 200 , 000 . Is that possible? How do you explain that kind of drastic variation in the attitude of the electorate? What INEC is saying is that about five per cent of the electorate in Lagos State are likely to vote and 95 per cent of the electorate in Kano State are likely to vote .
“It doesn ’ t make sense that in terms of compliance, authenticity and validity of the voter register. Going by what we have been told, it means that Kano State has 95 per cent compliance if they are saying that it is only about 190 , 000 out of about two million registered voters, that have not collected their PVCs .
“Historically, what we are being presented with is not possible . Are they saying the electorate in Lagos State are five per cent compliant and those of Kano State are 95 per cent compliant?” Osuntokun queried.
But findings by Sunday Sun reporters who visited some of the registration centers in Lagos State reported that a number of factors might be responsible for the high number of uncollected PVCs in the state.
In Alimosho Local Government Area, which is adjudged the most populous local government area in the state, findings showed that only handful of registration points were created in the area. For instance, between Alakuko and Ile-Epo both in Agbado- Oke-Odo LCDA, only two registration points, one at Tommia Secondary School, old Agbado and the other at Temidire Primary School, Oke-Odo, are available for intending registrants.
More curiously is the discovery that three INEC staff attached to both centres only have two machines to work with. More disturbing is the fact that the INEC personnel attached to both centres alternate their operation between both centers.
A security guard at Tommia Secondary School told one of our correspondents that the INEC staff deployed to the center had moved to Temidire Primary School in Oke-Odo and would only return to the venue after one month.
“A lot of people have been coming here since Monday but we told them to come back in one month’s time when they (INEC personnel) would return to this center. In the alternative, they may go to Ile-epo to register but that is quite a distance,” he said.
At Temidire Primary school where the team relocated to last week, Sunday Sun observed that close to 100 people are waiting to be registered but a source in the area told our reporter that half of the intending registrants might return home disappointed as there was a limit to the number of people that could be registered on daily basis.
“On a good day, when those coordinating the exercise have no issues with their machines, they register an average of 60 people. But whenever there is a problem with one of the two machines they are working with, they may not be able to go beyond 40 people,” the source revealed.
In what seemed to confirm the veracity of the source’s information, Sunday Sun observed that only 18 people had been registered for the day as at 12:00 p.m when our correspondent visited the registration point on Tuesday, 15 May, 2018.
The situation was not different at Jankara-Ojokoro office of the electoral body located on Bamgboye Street in Ifako Ijaye Local Government Area of the state.
Sunday Sun reporter who disguised as an intending registrant was told to come back before 7:00am the following day as only few people are registered on daily basis.
A notice pasted on the gate to the office advised intending registrants to get to the point before 7.00 a.m while a staff of the commission would give them number based on the time they arrived.
But while INEC continues to blame the people for not turning up to claim their PVCs, Sunday Sun observed that the commission might still be having millions of PVCs yet to be processed as one of our reporters discovered at the Jankara Ojokoro office of the commission.
Another notice pasted within the premises urged those who registered between April 2017, when the exercise commenced, till date to exercise patience as their PVCs were still being processed. This, Sunday Sun observed, is in contrast to the claim by the commission which seemed to put the blame on the people.
At another registration point- situated within a secondary school on Birrel Street Yaba, Lagos, Sunday Sun observed that registration was going on smoothly with three INEC officials attending to intending registrants that trickled into the centre.
The story is not different at a registration center situated within Local Govt Primary School, Mushin.
A community leader in the area Mr. Segun Akinlami complained that the registration centers in the area were far and appear hidden from the people. He appealed for the creation of more registration points so as to make it easier for the people to register.
“Mushin is a big area, so these registration areas should be at every nook and cranny of the community. Many people complain that the place is quite far from their homes,” Akinlami said.
Reacting to the development, Akinbiyi Olufemi, Assistant Director, Publicity/Protocol of the electoral body in Lagos State, insisted that many people who had undergone the exercise failed to turn up for their PVCs. He blamed the situation on the fire brigade disposition of Nigerians to issues as important as elections.
“It would have been more worrisome if people don’t come to register at all. But one of the factors responsibile for this could be the fire-brigade approach attitude of many of us in Nigeria. Many people will like to wait till when the election draws close before they now come rushing for their PVCs.
“Also another is the nature of terrain and the lifestyle of Lagos.
Up North it is easier to move from one area to another, but here most Lagosians live a fast paced lifestyle, you have people that live at Iyana Ipaja working in Victoria Island.
So they leave their homes to work very early in the morning.
But we are brainstorming on suggestions to see how we would work around the situation and find solutions,” Akinbiyi said.