Ahead of the 2019 general elections the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently approved the registration of 23 new political parties bringing the total number of political parties in the country to 91. The commission in apparent response to requests also said the voters’ registration exercise that was supposed to end on August 17 would be extended to August 31. As the deadline gets closer, prospective voters have been rushing to various registration centers in their respective states to either collect their PVCs or get registered.
In Gombe metropolis, our correspondent reports that as early at 7am, people troop to respective registration centers waiting for the INEC officials for the exercise which usually starts around 9am.
Daily Trust learnt that with the extension of the deadline more people that had hitherto given up hope of being registered now besiege the various centers to get registered.
Some of the potential voters that spoke with Daily Trust alleged that some INEC staff were taking advantage of people’s desperation to get registered by extorting money from them before registering there.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Umar Ibrahim, said due to the rush the commission had registered over 167, 000 voters in the state from January to August the as against 50,000 people that registered between April and December last year.
He said the commission distributed about 18, 700 PVCs out of the 48, 000 uncollected PVCs for voters that registered when the CVR was resumed in 2017.
He said there are still over 30, 000 unclaimed PVCs for voters that registered between 2011 and 2015.
On the allegation of extorting money from voters, Ibrahim said nobody reported such allegation to the commission, adding that any of the staff that was found wanting would be punished accordingly.
“Nobody has reported to us that INEC staffs are collecting money to register people. The registration is free and if any of our staff is collecting money, people should not hesitate to bring his name to us, our phone numbers are available at the respective centers for people to contact us on any issue,” he said.
Prospective voters spend between five and seven days before they were registered in Nasarawa State due poor to power supply and as well as alleged corrupt practices by INEC officials and security agents.
A prospective voter who gave his name as Danjuma told Daily Trust that he had spent five days on the queue waiting for his turn to be captured by the INEC official. “I am a student of the College of Education Akwanga. I have filled the INEC form since last Friday and up till today (last Thursday) they are yet to capture my photo and finger print because of the long queue and lack of power for the computers”, Danjuma said.
“All the people you are seeing here are waiting for INEC officials to capture their photographs and finger print. But unfortunately some people who are not on the queue will come and pretend that they have filled the form earlier and they will be captured. I suspect some registration officials are conniving with security agents and aiding the people who pay some amount of money to be captured.”
Another prospective voter, who declined to give her name, also accused registration officials of connivance with security officials. “I always come to this registration center as early as 6am and some people come earlier than me but surprisingly when privileged persons come and pay money, security agents aid them to be captured living us waiting for days. Today is my fifth day since I filled the registration form”, she said.
When our correspondent visited the only center at Tudun NBS in Lafia, he observed many people especially students seen stranded waiting for INEC officials to refuel their standby generator before capturing the fingerprints and photos of prospective voters.
Efforts to speak with INEC officials at the center and state office over the accusations of alleged corruption at the registration center proved abortive as the officials declined to speak.
Thousands of prospective registrants throng registration centers across Delta State amidst allegations that staff of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) were demanding gratification ranging between N500 and N2, 000 to register eligible voters.
A prospective voter, who had been seeking registration since the extension was announced, told Daily Trust that he spent days in vain at the registration center in the Oshimili South Local Government Secretariat, Asaba.
“Last week one of the INEC staff approached me and asked for N500 so he could influence a new tag number for me to be attended to quickly but I turned down the offer”, said the respondent who pleaded anonymity.
The scenario was similar at INEC Centre, Agbor in Ika South LGA, as an eyewitness told our reporter that the INEC authorities had to devise a strategy of checking the surging crowd by dispatching their staff on ward by ward basis across the LGA.
Prior to the INEC extension, the governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had announced two-day public holidays last week (Thursday and Friday) to enable civil servants and other public workers to register and obtain their PVCs.
Those willing to obtain voters cards still face frustration in parts of Cross River State and have called for more registration centers across the 18 LGAs so that the huge crowds could be registered before the extended deadline.
Daily Trust observed that the registration centers in Calabar South were not opened which has further compounded the travails of prospective voters. At one of the offices of INEC opposite the Akim Barracks of Nigerian Army in Calabar, thousands of the intending registrants continued to queue from morning till very late in the night.
Though they were very happy when INEC announced extension last week, they expressed doubt that half of the people may not be registered before the final deadline.
Mrs. Helen Akpan, who had to travel a far distance to queue hoping that she would be lucky, said: “I have attempted to register more than three times but the queue and the slow pace of work and sometimes poor functioning of the machine would not allow me.”
When the Calabar South-Akpabuyo-Bakassi chapter of the National Association of Seadogs in Cross River State embarked on awareness march to sensitize citizens on the ongoing exercise many had complained about the difficulties they encountered in their various attempts at registering to get PVC.
An electronics dealer in Watt Market, Emmanuel Nonso, said the crowd at the only registration centre in Calabar South had discouraged a lot of eligible citizens from registering. “I have gone to the only INEC registration center in Calabar South twice and was frustrated when I saw the massive crowd seeking to register”, he laments.
The situation is similar in Edo State.
Our correspondent reports that by weekend the electorate stormed PVC collection centers across the state, as early as 7am waiting for officials of INEC to commence the distribution.
About 449,001 are yet to be collected in Edo State by registered voters as a result of which INEC sought the support of the state government in sensitizing the people and making sure they get their PVCs.
A voter, Omorodion Osasuyi, who was at the Oredo to get his PVC, said the situation was chaotic as many people stormed the place for their PVCs.
Prior to the extension of the Continuous Voter Registration exercise, there were complaints from across Jigawa State that the exercise was slow owing to inadequate number of centers and personnel to handle the exercise.
At some quarters, it was alleged that INEC lacked enough functional generators to power the system day long because prospective voters were said to have assisted the commission by giving them their generators.
During a stakeholders meeting that was recently organized by INEC in Dutse, some concerns were raised on the issue of illiterate voters that visited the center twice or more without being registered.
However, the Jigawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Mahmuda Isa, dimissed the allegation as untrue saying, his commission had deployed adequate staff and equipment for the exercise.
The distribution of Permanent Voters Cards in Osun State is, however, said to be less stressful as prospective voters were said to be collecting their PVCs with ease.
Two residents of Osogbo, the state capital, Miss Victoria Akin and Reverend Sister Justina Ocheze told Daily Trust that they collected theirs easily.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in the State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje said out of 1,668,524 registered voters in Osun, 1,152,751 have collected their PVCs while over 500,000 PVC had not been collected.