2019: S’South And Unclaimed PVCs

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Last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State decried the low rate of collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by Rivers residents after due registration.
Speaking at a sensitisation programme entitled: ‘Youth Decide 2019’ organised by Young Professionals Forum in Port Harcourt, INEC’s Public Affairs Officer, Mrs. Geraldine Ekeleme, said that though the interest shown by the people during registration was impressive, there was apathy to the collection of PVCs in the State. She, therefore, advised those yet to collect their PVCs to do so without further hesitation.
Ekeleme noted that people in the Northern geopolitical zones of Nigeria showed more interest and seriousness in voter registration exercises than their counterparts in the Southern zones. She explained that the three zones in the South had the highest number of uncollected PVCs, stressing that cards for 2011, 2015 and the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise were still lying unclaimed.
Indeed, recent figures released by INEC show that out of 8.3 million PVCs uncollected in 2016, only 121,097 were collected as at March 22, 2018 (vis-à-vis 230,175 picked up in 2017), while the remaining total of 7.9 million are stacked up at INEC offices in the 774 local government areas across the country. The South-West states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Osun were said to account for 56 per cent of the unclaimed cards, followed by Edo, Imo and Rivers States.
In the case of Rivers, it was revealed that out of the nearly three million voters registered before the 2015 polls and the large turn-out recorded in the CVR, the State still has about 378,089 unclaimed PVCs. Elsewhere in the South-South Zone, the figures seem to run as follows: Edo 460,000; Akwa Ibom 124,669; Cross River 72,000; Bayelsa 28,590 and Delta 20,000.
The Tide condemns the apparent high level of apathy by registered voters in the collection of their PVCs and wishes to remind such potential voters that the 2019 general polls are around the corner. We think that any refusal to collect voter cards would be counterproductive for the South-South as was proved during the 2015 presidential election in which Dr Goodluck Jonathan who hails from the zone lost to the current president for the simple reason that the Northerners voted en mass for Buhari, using their PVCs.
We believe that the time and opportunity have, once again, come for the people of this region to prove its massive voting strength and not cry over spilled milk after the polls. INEC should also make the PVC collection process less cumbersome as it is often wondered why people struggle so much at the Commission’s offices, wasting man-hours, just to collect their cards.
According to reports, the Commission’s CVR principle categorically states that ‘PVCs of those registered in the first quarter (Q1) should be ready for collection in the third quarter (Q3), and second quarter (Q2) should be ready in fourth quarter (Q4), etc’. But how widely available is this information to the registering public? And how fully pursuant is the nation’s electoral umpire to this schedule, especially with regard to card printing, distribution, sorting and eventual issuance?
There can be no better time for registered voters to go for their unclaimed PVCs than now, especially against the backdrop of the fact that the 2019 general elections are fast approaching.
Again, we want to inform that the PVC, like the National Identity Number (NIN), driver’s licence and e-Passport, now serves as a veritable instrument for personal identification. In fact, ordinary Nigerians who are usually crowded out by the brazen bribery and racketeering that go with the issuance of the other identification documents are now mostly served by their PVCs whose collection process has, so far, remained free and largely untainted.
Meanwhile, we appeal to politicians, particularly those in the South South, to avoid the temptation of buying or sponsoring a hijack of PVCs and other election materials as such actions have the potential of not only causing crisis on election day but also disenfranchising voters and thereby leading to the installation of bad leaderships in the region.