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INEC and the PVC challenge

Published by Tribune on Mon, 08 Sep 2014

The Phase II of the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ended. It was originally scheduled for 15-17 August 2014. This Phase II of the distribution of the PVCs covered 11 states, namely: Bauchi and Yobe, (North-East); Jigawa and Sokoto (North-West); FCT and Kwara (North-Central); Ebonyi and Anambra (South-East); Delta and Cross River (South-South) and Ondo and Oyo (South-West).As INEC has recognised, the success of the February 2015 general election will to a great extent, depend on the effective distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise. Any voter who is unable to collect his PVC will not be able to vote, as no temporary voter card will be accepted for voting in 2015. The continuous voter registration exercise is to ensure that those who have reached the voting age but have not been registered could do so before the elections. The exercise also offers opportunity for initially registered voters, whose names have been removed as a result of multiple registration, incomplete biometrics or technical hitches in the course of running the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) on data collected during the 2011 voters' registration to register. Indeed, an inclusive and reliable voters' registration is essential to achieving electoral integrity and credibility.We commend INEC conforming with the PVC approach. It saves the country several billions of naira by moving INEC away from having to commence a new voters' registration exercise before every election. Much more than that, it has reduced the tendency to doctor the voters' list. Evidence from the states where elections have been conducted showed that the registration list could not have been so huge as it had been before the PVC approach. In most of these states, the numbers of voters with PVC have been below 60 per cent of the list of registered voters. While it is the case that some citizens could not get their PVC, it is certainly plausible that many names on the list were fictitious.Furthermore, the PVCs were designed to replace the cold-laminated Temporary Voter Cards (TVCs) that were previously issued. The TVCs were not just fragile, unscrupulous persons were said to have reproduced the cards and used them to manipulate elections. The PVCs, on the other hand, are chip-based. They contain all the biometric data of a legitimate holder. It is easy to use. The card can be swiped with the card reader at the polling unit to ensure complete authentication and verification of the voter. Besides, it is expected that by the time the PVCs' lifespan expire in 10 years, the National Identity Card system would have fully come on stream. From then on, there will be no need to incur fresh costs on acquiring separate identity documents for voters.Even so, there are several issues that INEC needs to attend to. Many citizens who had turned out to collect their cards complained that the process was slow, cumbersome and disorganised at the various collection centres. It also seems that the level of public awareness was poor. There were cases of missing names, insufficient time to complete the exercise, poor preparation of some of the officials and inadequate supply of PVCs. In some centres, a large number of the cards were stacked in front of officials with few people to collect them. In others, there were too few cards for the number of citizens reporting to collect the cards. The latter situation put the officials under pressure with citizens pressing for explanation leading to confusion and disorderliness. There were no security arrangements for these officials. Thus, there are several cases of possible disenfranchisement. In some locations, the officials never showed up after pasting the list for citizens to check their names. There were allegations that such officials simply continued the exercise in secret locations where the cards were sold to politicians.We call on INEC to examine the phase II of the PVC distribution exercise and take appropriate measures to address these challenges. INEC should ensure that the cards are made available to the people and that citizens are not disenfranchised. INEC must demonstrate evidence that it is a learning organisation by ensuring that the anomalies in phase II are not repeated in the next phase. There should be adequate publicity to improve participation in the subsequent exercise and to let the people know that the PVCs could still be obtained at INEC offices in the local councils, in places where the phased exercises have been concluded. The rules for transfer of location of registration as a result of migration should be publicised as well. We call on citizens to follow the rules and guidelines of INEC for both registered voters and unregistered eligible voters. Ultimately, INEC requires citizens' cooperation to ensure a fruitful and effective exercise.
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