Still on getting your PVC

Lekan Sote

After realising that it might not be able to complete the registration of voters ahead of the 2023 general elections, a move that some allege is a booby-trap to disenfranchise Southern Nigerians, the Independent National Electoral Commission extended its continuous voters’ registration exercise till the end of June 2022.

And to ensure the success of the exercise, the House of Representatives asked INEC to further extend the registration by 60 days. Thus, the registration exercise may close by the end of August 2022.

INEC is yet to confirm it accepts the suggestion. But an initial victory has been won with an Abuja Federal High Court issuing an interim order restraining INEC from ending voter registration on 30th June 2022.

Now that the extension of the registration and collection of the PVC is ongoing, INEC should consider opening the centres for 24 hours every day, including Sundays. This should significantly cope with the upsurge in the quest to register and collect the PVC, which INEC acknowledges.

But why INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, and his predecessors never thought that the collection of voter cards should be a continuous process is baffling. Why they prefer sporadic bursts, just before elections, is beyond comprehension.

One will like to ask why the exercise is not continuous, without a terminal date. Why can’t a Nigerian who just attains the majority age of 18 simply go to the INEC registration centre in (at least) his local area and register?

An unauthenticated submission credited to Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, agrees that voter registration “should be a continuous painless exercise (as) in better-organised jurisdiction (sic) who appreciate the value of planning.”

INEC cannot claim to be unaware that between 2019 and 2022, many more Nigerians reached the majority age of 18 and are eligible for registration ahead of the 2022 by-elections (or off-season elections) and the 2023 general elections.

But INEC has graciously reminded Nigerian citizens that only citizens who recently attained the age of 18 or registered voters with accreditation issues during previous elections have to physically show up because of the need for biometrics capturing. That is commendable.

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There are no expiry dates to apply for driver’s licence, international passport, bank verification number, national identification number, vehicle plate number, vehicle insurance, truck hackney permits, births and deaths registration.

There are no deadlines for obtaining these documents because they are truly and literally continuous exercises. You obtain them anytime you need them. INEC should consider adopting this model.

Maybe the more appropriate question should be, “Why do Nigerians, who get paid and are funded by taxpayers, to provide services to fellow Nigerians, always choose to make things difficult for other Nigerians?”

It sometimes appears that some people derive sadistic satisfaction in making Nigerians uncomfortable whenever they need to obtain what should just be their statutory entitlements from the

Maybe they are simply unable to be forward-thinking in solving problems. Consider the nonchalant and lackadaisical attitude of the National Identification Management Council to issuing National Identification Cards to Nigerians.

If NIMC manages to condescend to give you the temporary ID Card, the staff, who do not seem to realise the weight of their responsibility, keep telling you to expect a text message that will inform you when the permanent ID Card will be ready.

Yours truly has been waiting for one since February 2018, though it’s being whispered that you could go online, download and print the ID Card at a business centre. If this is true, NIMC should publicly confirm it to Nigerian citizens.

Now to the concerns of a nonagenarian friend who suggests that INEC should find a way to register senior citizens in the comfort of their homes. They should not be subjected to the rigours of queueing up (under the sun) at registration centres.

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The nonagenarian wonders if INEC wants his 104-year-old friend to join a queue at INEC office to register for a voter’s card. INEC must find a way to hand-deliver PVCS to the homes of senior citizens or other categories of citizens who live with unusual circumstances.

One must acknowledge the public enlightenment efforts of INEC to tell Nigerians that PVCs do not expire and do not need revalidation. This should significantly reduce the surge. After voting during the Ekiti State governorship election Governor Kayode Fayemi gave this testimonial, “My Permanent Voter Card was still recognised and it is the (same) PVC that I have been using since the beginning of this process.

One must also commend INEC’s instructions that those who want to transfer to another polling unit, update their records or replace lost (or damaged) PVCs do not have to physically go to INEC office. They can do so online.

Brilliant. But then, an octogenarian, who was a state governor, once complained in a private conversation that his eyes are not able to adjust to the glare while staring at the screen of a computer. What solution does INEC have for this old man who has served Nigeria in various capacities? Should his old age deprive him of his rights as a citizen of Nigeria?

Another category of Nigerians who deserve special attention is people with disabilities. If they tell you their challenges at registration centres and on election days you will wonder how they cope. Imagine the damage that can be done to the skin of albinos while staying in a long queue for a long time under the sun.

David Anyaele of Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons Living With Disabilities, a non-l organisation, commended INEC for offering priority voting to marginalised persons.

But he also “observed that the promised Braille Ballot Paper… (and) magnifying glass… (for) Blind Voter’s… (and) Information, Education and Communication materials, such as Election Day guidelines to assist the deaf… were not available (in some polling units during the Ekiti State governorship election).

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“(Also), large numbers of polling units were not accessible to physically challenged persons. These polling units were sited in difficult places, such as buildings without ramps/handrails, across gutters, staircase (which is unbelievable), etc.”

Something else that the and INEC have to worry about is ensuring the safety of voters, electoral officers and party representatives on election days. Many citizens fail to show up to vote because they fear being mugged by thugs and political enforcers at the polling centres.

Also, the safety of those who come out to register should be guaranteed. Recently, there was a report of harassment of members of the Igbo ethnic group by their Yoruba compatriots in the Ojo corridor of Lagos metropolis. This voter suppression menace, which surfaces usually when an election is approaching, should be discouraged with decisive action.

One may also add that it is also time to allow Nigerians in the diaspora to vote wherever they may be in the world, just as INEC should also make it possible for the old, infirm and those who are so disposed to mail their votes from wherever they may be in the country.

Apart from making the lives of voters easier, the policy may help revive the moribund postal system in Nigeria and thus create at least ad-hoc jobs for Nigerians. This is a humane and smart way of running the polity and improving the economy.

Twitter: @lekansote

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