This has caused anxiety in many quarters and protests in others. It has also heightened fear among prospective voters because of expectations that those who do not possess the PVCs would not be able to cast their votes in the 2015 elections, although the Commission said that the temporary voter card can also be used. With those elections only a couple of months away, less than 70 percent of the cards have been issued nationwide.
There have been complaints by a number of states that voter figures allocated to them in INEC register fall far short of the actual numbers. Some have also complained that such lapses only affect states controlled by opposition parties, and were designed to disenfranchise their constituents. INEC has denied that the shortcomings on its part were politically motivated to benefit the ruling party. Whether by default or design, the issue is of such magnitude in relation to the credibility of the forthcoming elections that INEC must take serious steps to tackle it. With the experiences since the last elections, such hiccups should have been a thing of the past. That simple procedures such as registering voters, producing voter cards, and issuing them to the owners, would now be causing such uproar show that INEC needs to act fast. Some explanations of a “loss of data”, which mean that people who registered may not find their names in the register, are simply not satisfactory.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola expressed outrage at such tardiness. Calling it an “insult”, Fashola observed that there was no excuse for what INEC had described as “technical challenges of loss of data” which resulted in over one million records being deleted from the electoral register in Lagos. Spokesperson of the INEC Chairman, Mr Kayode Idowu, countered that it was ‘completely false that INEC has removed the records of 1.4 million persons from the register of voters compiled in 2011 in Lagos State. It is true that at the end of the 2011 general registration exercise, the Commission announced a figure of 6.1 million registrants in the state. But when that data was subjected to the Automated Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) software, 82,892 multiple registrations were eliminated.”
As Fashola pointed, INEC’s intent is immaterial; it’s the effect of its actions that of paramount importance in a politically charged atmosphere such as this, because that is what people see. The notion that millions of voters could be disenfranchised could affect voter behaviour at elections. Complaints of hitches of varying degrees have also been reported from Kano, Rivers, Katsina, Borno, Imo, etc, some concerning failure by printers to deliver the cards. If INEC had underestimated the time and logistics required issuing all the PVCs, it has to make recovery adjustments in order to restore confidence in the electorates. There should be no illusion that it is INEC’s responsibility to fully distribute the PVCs and ensure that everyone who registered for them gets one. The Commission should not just be asserting that it has no hidden motives; it should appreciate the weight of the problem this has created and the feeling of possible disenfranchisement that runs deep, and quickly return to the drawing board to ensure that all Nigerians who are eligible to vote are given the opportunity to do so in the upcoming elections, even if this means returning to the manual voters’ register.