A Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) group, the PDP Integrity Vanguard, has called for an immediate audit of the distribution of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The group led by Senator Aniete Okon, at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, wondered how the INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, could hinge the postponement of the election on security challenges despite the huge irregularities that characterised the distribution of PVCs in the country.
The group also expressed concern about the planned use of card readers, submitting that there were doubts about its application and success particularly as INEC had not experimented with it anywhere in the country.
Faulting the distribution of PVCs, the group said: “We are however concerned that Jega attributed INEC’s decision to postpone the date of the election entirely to the advice he had received from the security agencies.
This does not accurately reflect the situation on ground.
“In his presentation to the Council of States a few days before, Jega admitted that a number of critical elements for free, fair and credible elections were not yet in place. Let me draw your attention to a few of those elements: The first is the distribution of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs).
“This matter has agitated the minds of most Nigerians over the past few weeks. Based on INEC Chairman’s February 7 statement at the world press conference, 68.8 million Nigerians were registered to vote, but only 45.8 million Nigerians had collected their permanent voters cards (PVCs). This meant that a total of 23 million (33.8 per cent) Nigerian registered voters had not yet collected their permanent voter’s registration cards. It became quite evident that logistically, it was not possible for INEC to complete the distribution of the said 23 million cards in one week left before the elections.
“If INEC had proceeded with elections on the February 14, 23 million registered voters would have been disenfranchised. This would have seriously dented the integrity and credibility of the 2015 general election and probably led to unrest.
”From the statistics presented by INEC, the problem cuts across all political parties. In fact, the statistics reveal that some APC controlled states are the most affected. For example, in Lagos, a major cosmopolitan state, only 38.4 per cent of the 5.9 million registered voters had received their PVCs.
“PDP Integrity Vanguard expected that the governor of that state should be concerned about the right of the remaining 61.61 per cent and the likelihood of security challenges if they were to be denied the right to vote. It is therefore surprising that the governor of the state has been at the forefront of the critics of the postponement of the election date.
“A similar case exists in Ogun State, where only 36.44 per cent of registered voters had received their PVCs as at February 4, 2015 – ten days to the elections. Some 1.2 million people from Ogun State would have been disenfranchised, had INEC rushed to conduct the general election on February 14, 2015.
“With the rate of PVC collection in Oyo State of 49.94 per cent and in Imo State of 50.23 per cent the two states are in similar circumstances. The APC governors of these and other states with poor PVC collection percentages should have been fighting for their people to collect their cards, so as not to be disenfranchised, rather than advocating for a rushed election.”
According to the PDP integrity Vanguard, “The statistics presented on the distribution of PVCs defy logic. We observed that in states as Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where insurgency has presented the most serious security challenges leading to mass displacement of persons, some of whom reside in IDP camp or have left their states, the PVC collection rate, which translated to 1,320,667 PVCs out of 1,934,079 registered voters. Yobe State with 1,099,970 registered voters had 824,401 (74.95 per cent) PVCs collected.
In comparison, Enugu State, with 1,429,221 registered voters, (higher than Yobe State), they had collected only 761,185 PVCs (less than Yobe State).
There are other examples. As an integral part of the PDP support group for fairness, we demand a comprehensive audit of PVC distribution and collection.
On the application of card readers, the group said: ”PDP Integrity Vanguard is also worried about the card reader, which INEC says will be used in the upcoming elections. The concern of our group is based on the propriety of use of a technology that has never been demonstrated or tested in any Nigerian locality or previous elections. Since the INEC insist on using this technology, the PDP integrity Vanguard group insists that its use must be uniform across the entire country. It must not be used in some parts of the country and not in other parts.
“Like the APC, the PDP Integrity Vanguard is also concerned about the Internally Displaced persons (IDPs). However, the PDP Integrity Vanguard identifies not just IDPS in the North-east states that were displaced by Boko Haram, but also IDPs who have fled from one part of the country to the other as a result of the election related threats and violence. PDP Integrity Vanguard expects that arrangements should be made for those affected to vote. The disenfranchisement of these people needs to be seriously addressed and solutions found within the next six weeks.”