Even with the general elections only a few days away, some people are yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).
Well before now, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had drawn public attention to the fact that there are many uncollected PVCs in many states across the country.
The uncollected PVCs in states, as reported by INEC, are in their thousands, which, when combined all over the country run into millions.
This is quite huge, when taken into consideration that a few thousands votes could make a significant difference in a keenly contested election.
Lagos State tops the chart of uncollected PVCs, as the electoral body announced in September last year that about 1.38 million cards remained uncollected.
While announcing that the state had the highest number of unclaimed PVCs, the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Sam Olumekun urged Lagosians to pick up their PVCs in their local government areas.
This appeal seemed to have made little or no impact, as the electoral body said last month (January 13, 2019) that it would be moving the about one million unclaimed PVCs to the 245 wards in the state on January 16.
Lagos State INEC said the idea was to make collection easier for Lagosians and that the exercise would end on January 21, after which the collection would be reverted to INEC offices at the 20 local government areas and other designated centres in the 8, 462 polling units across the state.
But why would anyone take the trouble to register and then ‘refuse’ to collect his/her voter card afterwards? Why didn’t INEC’s efforts at making the process of collecting the cards easier yield any result?
Mrs. Tinuke Afolabi, a resident in Ikate area of Surulere, said the exercise wasn’t as easy as INEC would want Lagosians to believe.
She said: “Immediately after the announcement that people should go to their local government areas to collect their PVCs, I went to collect mine. But after going to the local government office about four or five times with nothing tangible on ground, I decided not to go there again.
“Aside the long queues of people wanting to collect their PVCs, the cards were nowhere to be seen. The first time I went, the officials informed us that we should come back in three days time, as the cards should be in the local government by then. But when I went back, it was the same excuse that the materials were not available, that we should come back again. So, after going there four times and it was the same story, I stopped going.”
Did she go to INEC office to inform them of the development?
She replied that there was no point.
“Why should I go to INEC office,” she queried. “It was their duty to ensure that interested residents collect their PVCs and easily too. I did my part by going to register in the first place. I also went to the place I registered to collect the card, but my name wasn’t on the list. And after telling us to go to the local government to collect, I went there. What more am I supposed to do? Why should collecting voter card be so difficult or tedious?”
Similarly, Mr. Olamide Adams, who lives in Oke-Afa, Ejigbo Local Government area said he was put off when he couldn’t find his name on the list where he registered.
“I didn’t see my name when I went to collect the card. I later heard that not all names were printed where people registered. Some people also said there was a link where one could find your name and pick up your card. I tried the link but I still couldn’t find my name so, I gave up.”
Did he go to the local government to collect his card after INEC’s announcement?
“No, I didn’t because my neighbour went twice and was unable to collect her card. I didn’t want to waste my time, so I didn’t bother.”
Responding to the issue of people registering in one place and being requested to collect PVCs in another place, the Lagos INEC Public Relation Officer (PRO), Mr. Femi Akinbiyi said: “During the last Continuous Voters Registration (CVR), we registered people at designated areas, which necessarily are not where they will vote.
“What we did was that, while registering people at those designated areas, we made sure we transferred that registration to polling units very close to where they live, irrespective of where they registered.
“When the card reader is out, it will be for the polling units very close to where residents are living, so that on the day of election, they can easily go and vote in those areas.
“But people think that they are going to vote in areas where they registered, which is not so. Though when they registered, we had designated areas across the state, but to make it easier for coordination, we asked for their addresses and they will be placed at units very close to where they are living.
“For those complaining of not finding their names at the place they registered, this is possible, that is, if their cards are not yet ready, as at now. Those who engaged in transfer or complained of loss of card and those asking for replacement may have this problem, as we are still expecting some cards from Abuja. So, it all depends on the category these people that haven’t collected their cards belong.
“If it is transfer or replacement, they should please be patient for a while, and I’m appealing that they should not be tired of going to local government INEC office to check.
“On the issue of not knowing or unable to access the official INEC link to find names, we have since been announcing the link, and it is on the Internet. But for the sake of any doubt, the link is www.inecnigeria.org. When they get to that site, they should just click on PVC status and they should follow the next step as directed. You can only check your status by supplying the seven digits of your VIN number, or you put in your date of birth. Make sure you put in the date of birth you registered with.
“Some people have multiple dates of birth, hence, the difficulty in accessing their status. People should make use of the date of birth they used to register. This will give them the details they require.
“Those who have misplaced their PVCs can also log into the site, where they will get the directives to get a new one. All they need to do is to just go to that site as I directed and you can take the slip to any local government INEC office where you registered and they will look for your card for you.
“People should see all their efforts at collecting their cards by all means as a sacrifice to make the country’s Constitution work, as well as enable them have a say in installing those that will govern them. It is a patriotic duty to ensure a better future for generations unborn. So, they should continue to try.”
Analysing the situation and recommending the way forward, Mr. Oreofe Ilumoka, a resident in Ajao Estate, who explained that he was yet to collect his card due to the stress involved in the process, said INEC should have explored many other viable options when distributing the cards.
He said: “In these days of digital technology, one can do a lot, if you are imaginative and fast. Majority of people that registered for these cards must be using one bank or the other. Why didn’t INEC collaborate with the banks to distribute the cards? These people (banks) have the necessary gadgets.
“So, a bank customer with his/her Bank Verification Number (BVN) and other data with the bank would just pick his/her card at any of the bank branch, and in a few minutes, you are out of there with your card. You see how easy it has become to collect lost or expired Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards. In a matter of minutes, you are out of the bank with your new ATM card.
“It is just a matter of making the banks dedicate a temporary unit for the purpose until after the elections, when it can be dismantled. In future elections, the unit can be put together again.”