PVC and INEC’s 2019 elections preparations

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Monday, 21 January 2019

PVC and INEC’s 2019 elections preparations

Image result for PVC INEC
WITH the 2019 elections less than a month away, the usual lingering questions still remain about the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission to satisfy the yearning of Nigerians for free, fair and transparent polls. Aside from security, the late arrival of electoral materials, ballot box snatching, falsification of figures, thuggery and violence that have always characterised elections in the country, issues bordering on the Permanent Voter Cards and how they can be deployed to negatively impact on election results are forcefully coming under scrutiny.
While not in any way attempting to undermine the integrity of the commission or underestimate its capacity to deliver on its given mandate as an unbiased umpire during elections, it is still alarming to hear that millions of the PVCs meant for the February 16 and March 2 elections are out there, unclaimed, just as unscrupulous politicians are also reported to be out, cash in hand, trying to buy up as many of the PVCs as possible from those who have collected theirs. This is bound to raise eyebrows in many quarters as such an action could be rightly interpreted as a form of rigging.
The INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who spilt his guts recently, could not however put his finger on why politicians, definitely up to their old tricks, should be buying up the PVCs, especially when the usage is not transferable. According to him, the dodgy elements were also offering financial inducements in exchange for Voter Identification Numbers as well as the account and telephone numbers of those selling their cards.
If anything, it is an indication that INEC has a lot of work to do to thwart the efforts of politicians, who always seem to get away with their atrocities during elections, including the rather unfortunate murder of innocent citizens and even security officials. Yakubu has rightly suggested that it might have to do with vote-buying, since account numbers are involved. Instead of the usual practice of giving out money to voters at the polling centres, they must have devised a new method of sending money to the accounts of voters electronically ahead of the Election Day.
It is also true that, as the INEC boss observed, it could be a way of disenfranchising people in areas where candidates on whose behalf the illegality is being perpetrated do not have strong support. There is also the possibility that a potential voter whom money has been paid into his account could have his PVC returned on Election Day if the fraudsters are convinced the money might deliver votes to their candidates. The VINs could be a means of monitoring whether the voters had fulfilled their own side of the bargain. There are so many options to be explored by the INEC and the security agents.
Also, concerning the reluctance of voters to collect their PVCs, INEC may claim that it is not its duty to force duly registered voters to come forward for their PVC’s. Yet, there have been complaints of people who gave up because they claimed to have visited INEC offices several times but could not collect their cards. The complaints also extend to registration, where, in some cases, people had resorted to literally sleeping in the local INEC offices to get registered. This is not good enough.
In a recent interview, an INEC Commissioner, Mohammed Lecky, was quoted as saying that over eight million PVCs were still awaiting collection across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. In the usual Nigerian manner, making it difficult for people to access simple services could be a way of trying to squeeze out tips from people before attending to them. Perhaps, if INEC could find a way of making the collection of the PVCs or accessing any of its services less cumbersome, then there would be improvement in the responses of members of the public. There should also be awareness campaign to tell people about the importance of collecting their PVCs.
INEC’s response to the matter will be critical in deciding the fate of the elections. As the United States Deputy Ambassador to Nigeria, Jonathan Cohen, observed recently, “vote-buying could challenge the integrity of the election process.”  All that matters in an election is for the people to be allowed to express their wishes of making their votes count. Any system that is compromised by vote-buying, intimidation of opposing supporters and other malpractices can never produce a credible result; it could also result in a breakdown of law and order.
That is why INEC has to work harder to ensure that all loose ends are tied up. If the INEC boss has owned up to people buying up the PVCs, what has he done about it? Having promised to “work with security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws,” there is no reason why some of those exchanging money for the PVCs should not be in the police net by now. If Mahmood himself has said he was aware of the card-buying scam, then using intelligence to get some of the people behind it should not be so difficult.
Generally, it should be noted that discharging civic responsibilities should come with minimal inconvenience. INEC has to find a way of removing some of the obstacles in the way of people participating in elections. A good example is the practice of locking down the country because elections are being held. In smaller African countries such as Mali and Niger, for example, people go about their business and it does not affect the elections. Election is a very important part of life, but not the most important. People still have to eke out a living and when man-hours are lost, they are lost for good.


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