By ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Kalu Eziyi, PORT HARCOURT, Umuahia and Rosario Orsa Makurdi
With the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) set to end collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) on February 8, Nigerians who have yet to get their PVC have expressed frustration at the hassle involved in the collection of their PVCs at the distribution centres. Despite efforts by the commission to ensure speedy collection of the PVCs, including moving it to the ward level, some residents who say they are enthusiastic about participating in the 2019 polls have expressed their frustration at their inability to collect the card. The residents, who spoke in separate interviews yesterday in Abuja, appealed to INEC to make the exercise less difficult. Some of the residents, however, commended INEC for the conduct of the exercise, while others condemned the Commission’s officials for poor handling. Mrs Agnes Adetona, who narrated her ordeal, said that for two days she was unable to collect her PVC.
Another resident, Mr Ifeanyi Amos, noted that INEC officials were overwhelmed as a result of the large turnout, noting that the collection process was also slow. According to him, people left their businesses and jobs to collect the cards, which should not take time, but end up waiting for hours and, possibly, the whole day. Another resident, Mr Amos Ugochukwu, however, commended the officials for their ability to handle the situation in a civil manner.
According to Ugochukwu, although the hands of the officials were full considering the number of people they attend to, they were still able to listen to complaints, which also slowed the process. “A lot of people are coming so late to collect their PVCs that have been ready for quite a while, which I think is in the nature of Nigerians generally – to leave things till the last minute.” However, an INEC electoral officer in Bwari, Mrs Idowu Olayemi, told NAN in a telephone interview that the office was tackling the situation. “I have not received any complaints of misrepresentation of information on any card, but I got complaints of upsurge at the Dutse centre. “This large turnout by the electorate in the centre and other distribution centres in the council is a sign of readiness for the general elections; this is commendable,’’ she said, even as he gave assurance that all the issues would be addressed to ensure easy collection before the deadline so as not to disenfranchise anyone.
Three aspiring voters, Joy Eze, James Madu and Henry Okoroafor, told LEADERSHIP Weekend at separate interviews in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, how they were frustrated in their attempts to pick up their voter cards. Chima Obi, a tailor by profession, who was exiting the premises of the Commission along Adelabu Street in the capital when our correspondent arrived there, said it took him three visits to the centre before he was issued his card. This was just as scores of others who gathered in clusters discussing the election and other current issues complained to our correspondent about the slow pace of issuing of the cards at the centre.
At the state headquarters of the commission in the capital, Umuahia, an INEC employee at the Voter Education and Publicity Department disclosed that, at the last count the previous week, about 387,000 PVCs were yet to be collected by their owners across the state. The official, who pleaded not to be mentioned in print, said the “situation is worrisome as the general election which will commence next month is barely one month away from this week.” He said the apathy in the collection of the cards contrasted sharply with the enthusiasm prospective voters exhibited for the election during the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise which, he described as unprecedented in recent time in the state. Records obtained by LEADERSHIP Weekend from the INEC office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, revealed that by Tuesday, January 14, 2019, a total of 2,549,838 PVCs had been collected by their owners out of the 3,118,638 cards received by the office. The document showed that Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City local government areas had the largest and second largest number of cards received with 484,380 and 354,393 respectively while Opobo/Nkoro local government area had the least with 35,466 cards. In Cross Rivers State, INEC disclosed that 209,721 PVCs were yet to be collected in the state ahead of the 2019 general elections. The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Cross River, Dr Frankland Briyai, explained that 1,426,698 PVCs were sent to the state office from Abuja out of which 1,216,977 PVCs had so far been collected, leaving 209,721 uncollected by registered voters in the state. He said that INEC had dispatched the 209,721 PVCs to all the wards across the state for easy collection in order to enable registered voters to participate in the 2019 general elections.