The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that the Continue Voter Registration (CVR) ends middle August, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on the implications and the alarming number of unclaimed PVCs

As at last count, about 17 million Nigerians have yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

The revelation is coming at a time many Nigerians are calling on the youths to get involved in the electoral process.

Several groups have been formed, that are now sensitising the electorate on the importance of voting during an election.

Statistics shows that the voter apathy in Nigeria is in an alarming rate, despite the increase in population.

In 2015 presidential election, only 15.4 million votes decided the president, a number lower than the current uncollected PVCs which stands at 17 million.

Twenty-nine million Nigerians voted in the 2015 general elections out of the 68.8 million registered voters, it was gathered.

The statistics indicated that the other 40 million Nigerians who represent a majority were significant enough to influence the narrative at all levels.

If the 17 million uncollected PVCs get to the hands of their owners willing to vote, the 2019 narrative will change, according to political pundits.

“We are worried that many Nigerians have yet to collect their PVC,” Convener, #YouthDecide2019, Chukwuma Ephraim Okenwa, said.

Chukwuma said Nigerians should not show voter apathy as the country approached the 2019 general elections.

“The 17 million uncollected PVC is alarming. It should be a cause for concern by every Nigerian. We are calling on INEC to de-centralise the processes of PVC collection so that it can get to the appropriate owners,” Chukwuma said.

While many are clamouring for the total collection of the PVCs, some individuals went on illicit deals of selling the cards online.

Though INEC claimed there was no record of purchase, insisting that security agencies have been contacted on the matter and the online platforms were forced to bring down the advert.

According to INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, three online media actually advertised the sale of ‘clone’ PVC on their platforms but were forced to bring it down following a report to the security agencies.

“Voter’s cards cannot be cloned,” Yakubu said, while assuring Nigerians on the credibility of the 2019 general elections.

He said the card readers are only configured 72 hours before an election adding, “The card readers are shut down when the last person has voted. They operate only on election day. And they automatically shut down at 8pm. Even if you do not shut them down.”

“So, the idea of pre-loading the card reader is untrue. It is impossible to pre-load the card reader not to talk of using cloned PVC,” Yakubu said.

“Will the bearer of the cloned card wear a clone face? Yakubu asked while appealing to Nigerians to disregard what is being circulated.

While 17 million Nigerians have not collected their PVCs, INEC said it would suspend the on-going nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, on August 17 2018.

The law provides that the commission ends the exercise 60 days before elections.

But after series of consultative meetings with election stakeholders, INEC said the exercise will end August 17 to enable it carry out other activities concerning the 2019 general elections.

The National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Prince Solomon A. Soyebi, said that the decision to suspend the exercise was based on recommendations from stakeholders which include: Political Parties, the Media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Security agencies.

While some Nigerians can’t understand why the exercise has to be suspended in August instead of December, it was gathered that stakeholders have given the commission a matching order to suspend fresh registration which will give INEC sufficient time to capture registered people in their data, process and produce the PVCs for them before the 2019 general elections.

INEC is also worried that 17 million Nigerians have failed to collect their PVC so far, even though the cards are lying down in their offices nationwide.

The commission recently engaged Political Parties, Civil Society Organisations and the Media to sensitise Voters on the need to collect their cards.

Chairman of INEC, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, while expressing concern over the 17 million uncollected PVCs lying in INEC offices nationwide, disclosed that the commission was able to register about 10 million fresh voters in the on-going Continuous Voter Registration exercise that will end August 17.

“The only task ahead of us now, after many milestones on the electoral process is for us to ensure that registered Nigerians collect their PVCs,” Convener, Emerging Political and Economic Leaders’ Summit, Wale Ajani, said.