The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will on Friday, commence the distribution of the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in some selected states of the federation.
The permanent voters’ card would replace the current temporary document issued few days to elections which remains valid for only specific elections period.
The distribution of the PVCs is expected to precede the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in the pilot states.
The commencement of the two exercises will, according to election experts, provide the platform to test the commitment of INEC for the 2015 general elections.
From May 23 to 25, the electoral body will kick-start the PVC distribution in the first 10 pilot states of Taraba, Gombe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Benue, Kogi, Abia, Enugu, Akwa-Ibom and Bayelsa.
INEC has made it clear that the PVC has advantages over the current arrangement in use because it does not cover only certain elections but has an extended validity period that covers more than a period of elections.
This, according to experts, will reduce the problem of re-registration by voters any time there is an election, while it will also reduce the burden on the commission in terms of costs and logistics.
The continuous voter registration is expected to commence in the states from May 28 to June 1, with a view to giving chance to individuals who could not get their PVCs, as well as other Nigerians who have turned 18 after the last exercise to be captured in INEC’s electronic voters register for the 2015 elections.
INEC said the nationwide CVR exercise would be conducted in three phases, and each phase of the exercise would be preceded by the distribution of PVCs. However, the commission did not give the dates of the next two phases of the exercises or the states that would be in each of the upcoming phases.
“Though the dates of the CVR of the outstanding phases and states are yet to be released by the commission, each phases of CVR will be preceded by the distribution of PVCs.
INEC in a statement: “Said “The decision to stagger the CVR exercise and the distribution of PVCs is informed by lessons learnt by the commission from the recent CVR exercise and distribution of PVCs in Ekiti and Osun States,” The two exercises were recently conducted by the commission in Ekiti and Osun States for the upcoming governorship election on June 21, and August 8 respectively. But there have been cases of missing voters’ names or cards, irregularities and other logistical problems recorded in the current exercises in the two states.”
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, explained that the lessons leant by the commission and its staff during the distribution of PVCs and the CVR in the two states would be factored in when the nationwide exercises come up.
During the inauguration of the INEC’s National Inter-agency Advisory Committee on voter education and publicity (NICVEP), last week, the chairman frowned at the ignorance of Nigerians to electoral matters, which he said has led to voter apathy, despite being under a democratic dispensation for fifteen years.
Chairman of the advisory committee, Chris Iyimoga, who is also INEC’s acting chairman of information and publicity committee (IPC), said at the event that work on the voters education by the committee will commence in earnest, in view of the upcoming PVCs distribution and the CVR exercise.
He said there is the need for adequate sensitisation of Nigerians on what the commission has already started doing ahead of the two exercises.
“We have our work cut for us. In a couple of weeks, major electoral activities will commence with the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) phase 1, with ten states and this is barely a week away…this will be followed by the national roll out of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) between the 28th of May, and the 1st of June, 2014.
“Intensive and sustained voter education ought to precede major activities. The commission, on a bi-lateral basis with some of the NICVEP members, already begun some level of consultations and enlightenment. The inauguration of the committee will no doubt, give additional momentum to this initiative,” he said.
As the commission puts finishing touches to the exercises, reports indicated that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State is also preparing for a legal show down with the electoral body due to what it described as a move to “disenfranchise” the state’s electorates, following cancellation of about 621 polling units from INEC’s voters register ahead of the new exercise.
Chairman of the party in the state, Chief Vita Abba, in an interaction with journalists said the act is “unacceptable and a ploy to disenfranchise the electorate in the state.”
Many say if the commission had preceded the action with adequate publicity, reached out to the relevant stakeholders and if the newly inaugurated voter education and publicity committee had been set in motion earlier than now, there would have been better understanding on the parts of the electorates and political parties.
Shedding lights on the CVR exercise, a former acting chairman of the commission, Ishmael Igbani, during a recent workshop with the publicity secretaries of the registered political parties, clarified the essence for the re-launching of nationwide CVR.
The exercise, Igbani said, was to enable “all eligible voters who have turned 18 years of age since the last general elections in 2011 and those who, for one reason or the other, did not register during the last exercise, the opportunity to register and participate in subsequent elections.
“The CVR exercise will equally afford an opportunity for those who have registered during the 2011 exercise but who could not have their finger prints duly captured at the time,” he said.
While explaining the rationale for the distribution of PVCs ahead of the CVR exercise, the acting chairman, who is also a commissioner, said: “All registered voters whose PVCs have not been printed on account of missing finger prints will be expected to join the newly turned 18 year olds to register and update their details to qualify them for their PVCs, without which they will not be able to vote in both Ekiti and Osun and the 2015 general elections.”
INEC has consistently said the addendum voters register that was used at the 2011 elections would not be used at the 2015 election.
The commission, therefore, emphasised the importance of Nigerians who may not find their PVC to use the opportunity of CVR to get captured in the electronic register, so as to be eligible to exercise his/her franchise during the general elections.
The use of PVC at the next elections will be complemented with inbuilt features that would warrant the use of card readers for the verification of voter’s card at the polling unit, which INEC said will significantly curb the incidences of voter cards trading.
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