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PVC registration/ collection: Nigerians share their experience

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INEC personnel at a registration centre PHOTO: INTERNET

As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) finally closed registration of voters yesterday ahead of 2019 elections, Nigerians have been reliving their experiences during the exercise.

While some commended INEC for the manner the exercise was carried out, others condemned the Commission’s officials for poor handling, alleging that they were more interested in exploiting Nigerians than making the exercise hitch-free.

Many also complained of their inability to get their Permanent Voter Cards, despite having registered since, but ironically, INEC has been appealing to registered Nigerians to come and pick their PVCs. The figure of uncollected PVCs across the country, according to INEC, is overwhelming. This has left many wondering if the owners of these uncollected PVCs are truly Nigerians or not. Some have asked what would happen to the uncollected PVCs if their owners fail to collect them. This is one question INEC has not provided answer to, even as opposition has even accused the electoral umpire of planning to hand it over to the ruling APC to rig the 2019 elections. How this is, nobody knows, but it’s been a mixed bag of experiences for majority of Nigerians trying to register or collect their PVCs.

Low Voter Education, Extortion Responsible For Uncollected PVCs In Cross River
From Tina Todo, Calabar
Residents of Cross River State have linked the issue of uncollected Permanent Voters Card across the country to low voters’ education.

They also said that it could be because most people that registered have changed their residences and it becomes a problem for them to do transfer, because of the system of managing the process.

In some part of Cross River, people were made to pay money to INEC officials to buy fuel to run the generator to operate their equipment.

A resident of Odukpani local council, Mr. Ken Ita, said they were made to pay N100 each to purchase fuel for INEC officials to run their generator.

“How do you expect people to come out and get their PVCs or the CVR when we are made to buy fuel for them to do their job? We paid N100 to INEC officials in Odukpani to buy fuel to register us,” he complained.

It was also gathered that Nigerians have lost hope in the electoral process, following the recent gale of defections in the National Assembly. Speaking to The Guardian in Calabar, Mr. Martin Anyafulu said the electoral system has to be overhauled through proper sensitization of the people.

He said more than 80 per cent of voters do not reside where they did their registration.

He said: “It is not right to say that people have refused to pick their Permanent Voters Card but one thing we have to bear in mind is that people change residence. More than 80 per cent of registered voters don’t live in their own houses and they can change residence at any moment and when they do that it would be difficult for them to pick their voters card.”

In the same vein, Mr. Kenneth Emin said: “What I think could have attributed to it could be lack of sensitisation. Most people believe that there is no need of collecting their PVCs because they believe their votes will not count.

“Using myself as an example, my PVC had an issue and I went to INEC office, but the response I got from the official was not encouraging. They asked me to come back that the person that was to attend to me was not on seat, I went there more than three times until I got fed-up. We need to speak more about this PVCs, the electoral process, something needs to be done about it because with that, a well-meaning Nigeria will want to get his or her PVC and make a change,” Emin said.

Defying the rain to register in Benin City

Mrs. Queeneth Alozie also said: “The reason many people have not collected their PVC was because the polling centres where they did it is far from where they have relocated to.”

The state INEC disclosed to The Guardian that the number of uncollected PVCs in 2015 is 97,021, while the one for 2017 is 110,223.

The Head of Department of Voters Education and Publicity, INEC, Mrs. Anthonia Nwobi, disclosed this adding that the Continues Voter’s Registration (CVR) from April to 15 August this year was 473,067.

Over 430,000 PVCs Yet To Be Collected In Imo
From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri
Imo State ranks low among the states in terms of either registering or collection of the Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) according to the Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu.

A graphic analysis of the level of compliance to the exercise, since last year April, indicates lack of interest either on the part of the intending registrants or registered voters yet to collect their PVCs.

This is causing the REC sleepless nights. He disclosed that from January to April this year, he toured all the 27 Local Councils headquarters of the state on town hall sensitisation, where he met with critical stakeholders, including the monarchs, councils’ officials, political party officials, Presidents General of the Town Unions where critical and salient issues concerning elections, including the PVC collection, Temporary Voter’s Cards (TVCs), Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), and eligibility of intending registrants among others were espoused. Questions and answers were allowed in between such periods of visits.

During the brainstorming sessions, the Professor of Biochemistry and Environment, said he gave the window of partnership to the monarchs, urging them to draw lists of their subjects who registered in order to enable them work with the INEC officials to distribute the cards to them, but clearly stated that he would not hand over the cards to the monarchs or any other person outside INEC officials to distribute in proxy or any guise.

He regretted lack of interest on the part of the monarchs when he could not approve of giving the cards to them to distribute.

The electoral chief in Imo disclosed that some INEC officials who were uncovered to have distributed PVCs to their owners in Mbaise via proxy have been sacked.

His message of electoral processes including PVCs collection, CVR and TVCs’ issues were taken to religious grounds, the media, electronic, print and social media for effective and efficient grassroots dissemination in all nooks and crannies of the 645 autonomous communities in the three senatorial districts of the 27 Local Councils in the state.

Despite all the efforts, there were indications that people of voting age (18 and above), appeared uninterested until initial announcement of the August 17 deadline. Sudden upsurge of persons began to be witnessed at the headquarters in the various councils. The commission later extended the deadline to August 31, 2018.

According to the INEC official in charge of Public Affairs and Voter Education, Emmanuella Ben-Opkara, as at Sunday, August 26 when a comprehensive voter audit was done in the 27 Local Councils of the state, in the Continuous Voter Registration exercise, about 344,375 males and 199,267 females registered, while 28,795 Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs), were distributed to their owners between April last year and last Sunday.

Over 430,000 uncollected PVCs litter the commission’s offices at the 27 Local Councils of the state.

Worried by the scenario, the Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, few days to the initial August 17, deadline, declared a two-day public holiday to enable registrants and registrable residents in the state go and either obtain their PVCs or register.

The directive was quickly truncated after the INEC headquarters in Abuja extended the closing date to August 31.

The Guardian visited Uratta, Owerri North Local Council headquarters, Unuguma, Owerri West Local Council headquarters, Owerri Municipal headquarters in Owerri, and INEC headquarters along Port Harcourt Road in Owerri, capital city of Imo State, the issues listed above were uncovered.

Both registrants waiting to get their PVCs and intending registrants were seen struggling to beat the August deadline.

Relocation, Distance Major Barrier In PVCs Collection In Plateau 
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
A civil servant in Plateau State, Mr. Abednego James who has been frustrated in the process of collecting his Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) said that the exercise was not worth the rigour he undertook to collect the card.

James, who spoke to The Guardian, said: “I am desirous of collecting my PVC to exercise my franchise in the 2019 general elections, but unfortunately, I have a big challenge collecting it.

“One of the problems is the distance. The distance between my house and the INEC office is three hours drive and I have to spend nothing less than N3,500 each time I have to travel down. I have gone there three times which is about N10,000 and I have not been able to get it. In fact, the distance is the major problem.

“Besides, the method of issuing the PVC by INEC staff is by manual method and not electronic. It is indeed not easy. It takes time. The INEC department that issues the PVCs does not have enough manpower to attend to people who are in the queue.”

Deputy Director, INEC Voter Education and Public Affairs, Osaretin Imahiyereobo, said that INEC has adopted a new method, whereas in the past people collected PVCs for others by proxy, adding that it is no longer encouraged and tolerated.

Osaretin explained that only few local councils like Kanke has not collected theirs whereas councils like Jos North, Jos South, Mangu etc have high percentage of collection of the PVCs.

He said: “Before, politicians will come and collect on behalf of others, but they will not give them the PVCs. We are no longer allowing that. Maybe, that is why there is apathy.”

Osaretin gave the figures of collection in the state. As at August 20, 2018, male voters who collected PVCs are 21,521 while female stands at 13,604 bringing the total of those who collected their PVCs in the state to 35,125.

Apathy, Insecurity, Farming Hinder Voters In Taraba
From Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
The dream of ensuring massive turnout of eligible voters in the forthcoming general elections may turn out to be a mirage in Taraba State, following the lukewarm attitude of the people towards the collection of their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC).

At the state headquarters of the INEC, it was observed that there is heap of uncollected PVCs packed in one of the offices, as some of the owners were alleged to have deliberately refused to come for the collections.

Confirming the availability of a large number of yet-to-be-collected PVCs in INEC office, the Commission’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Febian Yame said he has gone on air to plead with voters to come for their PVCs.

Spokesman of the commission, who said the INEC would not relent, also called on party leaders to embark on measures that would motivate their supporters to, as a matter of urgency, come for their PVCs.

The insecurity in the state which was necessitated by the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen, alongside the communal clashes which have compelled people to flee their villages, was also responsible for non-collection of PVCs by residents of the state.

From the nearby Lau local council area where several villages have been razed down as a result of attacks, the council chairman, Wani Yafi Wani, who felt that apart from the state government that has been working round the clock to ensure sanity, the federal government’s failure to intervene made residents to abandon their PVCs.

Ongoing farming season was also adduced by some farmers as the reason why they have not gone to collect their PVCs.

While clerics at worship centres took it upon themselves to announce to their adherents the need to collect their cards, political parties, especially those who are bent on making a difference at the coming polls, are always cap in hands pleading and motivating their supporters to collect their PVCs.

Some INEC Officials Ask Us For ‘Settlement’ Before Doing Anything’, Residents Lament
By Tobi Awodipe, Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
A visit by The Guardian to some registration centres in the Ilasa/Isolo areas of Lagos showed that a good number of the centres were no longer operational and people that wanted to register were being asked to go to INEC office in Oshodi. A resident, Blessing Edet, said she had been visiting the registration centre at Kusoru/Deji Ajomale primary school but was unable to register despite several visits. “The officials are not regular here and the few times they come around, the crowd is always discouraging me. They ask us to write our names down but a lot of shady dealings happen and before 2:00pm, they will announce they have closed. I did this for a while and gave up because I couldn’t be begging for leave from work every time I hear they are around. Eventually, I was told they would no longer be coming there and I was to go to their office in Oshodi.”

Blessing’s tale is no different from what others in the vicinity had to tell. While some were lucky enough to have registered months ago, most new registrants are having a tough time. One of the youth leaders of St Mary’s Catholic Church, Isolo, who simply gave his name as Sixtus, told The Guardian that he believes there is a gang-up to prevent people in Lagos from registering. “There is a gang-up by INEC to prevent us from registering. It is only in Lagos you hear that people go to registration centres from 6:00am, spend the whole day there and still cannot register. My friends in other states are not experiencing these issues we are facing here. They go and they get everything done in a few hours. Why is our own different here?”

He went on to add that the church organised for a centre to be set up nearby so that people can go register. “That was a few weeks ago and people turned up. However, it was one story or the other whenever we go to register. Apart from the fact that the officials close very early, they run on generators and we had to donate for fuel to run the generator. They were just two of them and they were clearly overwhelmed by the number of people that came to register.”

As at 11 am when The Guardian looked at the list of new registrants, the number had reached almost 300 and less than 20 people had been called in.

Speaking with one of the officials who pleaded anonymity, she said they had to give preference to pregnant women and women with little children first.

“As you can see, we are not playing. When you came in, you saw us hard at work, trying to do the best we can with limited time and resources. Some people claim we are being bribed to attend to certain people but it’s not true. The only preference we show is for pregnant and nursing mothers while we ask others to wait. The machine we use usually has issues and we have to fix it whenever it develops issues. That is why it takes a long time to attend to a few people.”

She went on to add that if most people had come in to register last year, the surge they were experiencing wouldn’t be as bad. Sixtus refutes this claiming that they had been trying to register for months but the officials were usually absent and the few times they came around, were demanding for cash settlement before doing anything.

“They ask us to pay their transport fare, fuel money, lunch money and all other kinds of things. I even heard that some people that went to collect their PVCs were asked to pay before collection. That didn’t happen to me personally but I wouldn’t doubt it, judging from my experience with them in the past.”

When The Guardian visited the Oshodi-Isolo local council INEC office at about 2:00pm, the collection process was ongoing, even though there were very few people around. It took over 30 minutes to attend to the less than five persons in the queue, which saw some of its officials smuggling temporal voters cards to help impatient people get the permanent voters cards for a fee.

The local government, The Guardian gathered, is a collection centre for PVCs mostly registered in 2011 and 2014, which had tons of PVCs stacked in two rooms awaiting collection. Those registered during the 2018 registration phase, which ended yesterday, will collect their PVCs from November 2018.

Mrs. Uju Amaji had her baby strapped behind her wearing a disappointing face when told her PVC would not be ready till November, having registered three months ago.

She remarked: “I am really disappointed, I needed to rectify some backup issues with this identity card as I have been told to provide a national means of identification. It is sad, I may never get the money I am expecting from my people abroad as I am tired of using another person’s account.”

A trader, Niyi Ogunle, who brought his son for the collection of his PVC, said this would avail his son the opportunity to do transactions especially in the bank since he can now be duly identified. Ogunle who expressed worry over the thousands of PVCs yet to be collected said: “It is sad that a lot of people have not collected their PVCs, I have even seen names and faces of people I know who live on the same street. I think that if community heads can mobilise their people and bring them here to collect the cards, it will do a lot of good to us.

We Are Tired Of PVCs’ Stress, Palaver, Say Lagos Residents
By Maria Diamond, Henry Ekemezie, Ezeakudo Chinelo Mirabel, Chidike Ifediniru, Chukwunedu Nkechi, Anita Obiora and Precious Gabriel

Residents of Ayobo environs have expressed frustration over PVCs collection. Mrs. Adetoun Olorunsola, who narrated her ordeal trying to collect her PVC way back in 2011 said: “I have been tossed around from one collection centre to the other to no avail, hence, discouraged and decided to quit the attempt.

“I am in my late fifties and if at this stage, I am subjected to endless struggle just to collect a PVC, which in other climes should be dropped at my residence mail box. I am done.

“I have been struggling to collect since 2011 and every other year I have attempted to collect my PVC with no success. I spent a week in a queue last month, even in the heavy downpour, everyone waiting to collect was drenched and at the end of the week, 98 per cent of us were sent to Alimosho council area with the same old story,” she said.

Olorunsola further said the only reason she kept trying was because of her children abroad who send money to be collected in banks, plus other formal mediums, which most times require PVC as means of identification.

Chibuike Ekene revealed that after series of collection attempts, he was fortunate to team up with a group of people who co-opted him in the contribution of N1,000 each to hasten the process.

“Someone initiated the idea amongst some of us who were waiting to collect PVC and we put down N1000 each with our details secretly. The guy who initiated the idea took the money to one of the officials and within two hours, we all got our PVCs and left the others who were still on the queue,” he said.

In the registration centre at Owoseni Primary School, Lagos, Mr Akinwumi Oladele disclosed that only 40 people are attended to daily, out of hundreds, because there are few enough INEC officials.

A trader Patience Effiong said: “The people are really angry. I don’t blame those who take out their frustration by fighting with Inec officials and claiming other people’s names to be able to register on time. This is not organised at all. There is only one person attending to hundreds of people, which is not meant to be.”

The Awori PVCs registration centre in Ojo local council was moved to riverine area from Tuesday 28 to Wednesday 29 August 2018 with no explanation.

This notice was written boldly and signed by the management Ojo registration council, in a green cardboard sheet pasted at the entrance of the Awori Secondary School. It further announced that registration would commence in Awori on Thursday 30 to Friday 31 August 2018.

However, several persons being unaware of the announcement were still coming to the centre but were redirected by a lady who sells outside the school gate to come back on Thursday or go to riverine area.

It was gathered that the process was indeed a struggle for Ojo residents as only one system was used to for over 1000 registrants who came with different issues. One of them Marcel Njoku said he has done this before but was told to repeat that the system crashed.

“It seems to be a waste of time because out of the thousands that gathered, only few receive attention on a daily basis while the rest repeat the next day.”

At Abekoko registration centre in Agege council area, the residents lament the slow process of INEC officials as many of them stay hours a day without collecting their cards.

Voters who came by 11:00am to collect their PVCs were advised to go and come back the following day around 3:00pm.
“This is not the first, second or third time I’m here. I have been here severally, each time I came early, yet still no PVC,” Mr. Yomi Jogunsimi said.

“I have no business with the election. How will I go through all this stress to vote when my vote does not count? Whoever they want to win, wins the election, I’m just doing this for my bank account,” he said.

According to a trader in the Ikotun market area, Rashidat Olaitan, “we have mobilised and complied to get our PVCs, but it seems that INEC is not ready for this exercise or that it is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise us.”

“For the past three days, we have been coming to this council as early as 3:00am but at the end of the day we go home without achieving anything.”

A businesswoman, Mrs. Esther Falade, who took a two-day break from her place of work to register for the exercise was left frustrated after waiting for several hours without even getting near the registration area and later had to go back home at the end of the day. “I can’t kill myself because I want to register, I don’t see why I should go through such stress because I want to register to vote,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, a resident of Abaranje, Fatai Quadri, said there is need for the state government to look into this issue with INEC. “We have been urged to get our PVCs but we don’t see them coming. I personally did my own investigation, as I visited some of the registration centres where INEC officials collect a sum of 2,000 naira as bribe from individuals in order to run an express PVC registration process.”

According to Nikolas Agbatan, ‘it was a hectic experience trying to get PVC, but I’m okay with the process although there were some logistic challenges, as about only four INEC ad-hoc staff were attending to over 500 people, it took about two weeks to get mine done.”

‘Collection Of PVCs Should Not Take More Than 10 Minutes’
Chief Press Secretary to Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mr. Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, speaks on the level of collection of uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), even as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ended yesterday.
By Godwin Ijediogor (News Editor)

What is the situation with collection of PVCs? 
As at August 26 this year, a total of 854,362 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) had been collected across the country.

However, about 7.4 million PVCs are still uncollected. Lagos has the highest number of uncollected PVCs, 1,377,702, followed by Oyo State with 619,761.

What could be responsible for the large number of uncollected PVCs? And what is INEC doing to address the situation ahead of next year’s elections?
From our findings, some of the owners of the uncollected cards have relocated from where they originally registered.

Some are deceased, while others who are still domiciled in the area where they registered may not feel that it is important to collect the cards.

The Commission is currently intensifying efforts to sensitise Nigerians on the need for those who have registered and are yet to collect their PVCs to do so.

Very soon, the Commission will begin to send text messages to the card owners.

However, we are also working with our partners and stakeholders to help sensitise the general public as well.

This is paying off. Religious and traditional rulers have been of immense assistance in encouraging their members/subjects to collect their PVCs.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), women’s and youth groups, development partners and even individuals are also partnering with us to create more awareness.

We appeal to The Guardian and the media to also assist the Commission this regard, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Although, the collection of PVCs will continue until a week to next year’s general elections, we nevertheless want to appeal to those affected not to wait until one week to the general elections before they collect their cards. The earlier, the better.

Apart from council secretariats, where else can people collect the PVCs?
All registration centres are also making PVCs available for collection.
Is the option of distributing uncollected PVCs through traditional rulers/institutions, among others, been considered?

Not at all! There is no collection by proxy.
A lot of people complain of challenges in collecting the PVCs at the collection points, such as theirs not found, not attended to, due to large number of people coming to collect, etc. What is INEC doing to make collection of PVCs easier?

The recent upsurge in the number of people turning up at our registration centres was due to the rush to beat the August 31 deadline for the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise. But there is a separate desk for the collection of PVCs and our officials are available to attend to owners.

Collection of PVCs is not a problem per se at all our centres, as much as those who want to register. If you go to the right centre, your PVC will be waiting for you. But if you go to the wrong centre, you will not be able to get your PVC.

Nigerians can also check their status on our website via http://voterreg.inecnigeria.org/ and follow the instructions.

Alternatively, they can check by sending an SMS in the following format- State, Last Name and Voter Identification Number (VIN) to 0817 164 6879. They will receive a response within 20 minutes.
Why do you think a lot of people are coming so late to collect their PVCs that have been ready for quite a while?
You have asked an important question. I think it is in the nature of Nigerians generally to leave things till the last minute. People tend to go for the things they need urgently.

You would have noticed that what INEC is facing now is similar to what the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) faced during the Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise. People kept asking for more postponement after each deadline until the CBN could no longer postpone.

When you ask those who come to our centres now why they have not registered since April last year, when the CVR commenced or collected their PVCs since 2015 or 2011, as the case may be, you will hear excuses, like, ‘oh, I have been busy, I have to go to work,’ or ‘I have family issues to deal with’ and so forth.

Yet, if the same Nigerian has a visa or job interview, he or she will be at the venue in good time.

My appeal to Nigerians is, let us not leave things till the last minute.

What advice to those going to collect and those yet to think of collecting?
I want encourage those wishing to collect their PVCs to please do so. But you need to be sure you are going to the right centre where your card is waiting for you.

Collection of PVCs should not take more than five to 10 minutes, if there are no issues. It is important that you go with your Temporary Voter’s Card (TVC) that was issued at the point of registration.

What is INEC doing to ensure uncollected PVCs do not end up with the wrong people (including politicians) for fraudulent purposes?
That is precisely the reason why INEC does not allow collection of PVC by proxy. If we had allowed that, all the PVCs would have been collected by now. One of the reasons why we insist on personal collection is to ensure that the cards do not end up in the wrong hands.

The Commission will never give PVCs to politicians, any individual or groups for distribution. In any case, INEC does not distribute PVCs; we only make PVCs available for collection by their original owners.


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