About six days to the July 31 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to end the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR), there are indications that many Nigerians may not register to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to exercise their franchise during the forthcoming general election.
Besides, the commission, LEADERSHIP findings revealed, may not meet its target of registering 20 million Nigerians in the ongoing registration exercise as earlier announced.
Nigerians have also expressed their frustration over the process due to insufficient PVC registration devices at INEC offices in the face of large turnout of new registrants.
Apart from the hitches to getting registered, LEADERSHIP checks showed that desperate politicians, traditional rulers, and religious leaders now induce INEC CVR staff to register their followers in their private residences.
It was gathered that INEC staff are being paid N50,000 to N200,000 and in some instances, the field officers were paid N1,000 for each registration in Abuja.
n Kubwa under the Bwari area council of the FCT, Abuja, and suburbs like Nyanya, Gwandara, One Man Village, Suleja and Madalla, among others, the registration officials are most times not readily available at the designated INEC centres.
In Kubwa, the field officer spends a few hours in Kubwa Primary School before proceeding to the homes of the next highest bidder.
For instance, to get the INEC field officer to a residence, community leaders must mobilize members of the community and get them to pay N2,000 each, get a good number of people before subsequently inviting the INEC staff.
Consequently, investigations also revealed that the Churches leveraging their capacity and ambiance create the enabling environment for their members to register.
This conducive environment, according to one of the church leaders, is created as part of Corporate Social Responsibility aimed at assisting members of the Church to participate actively in the forthcoming elections.
In Niger State, it was learnt that officials hardly come to registration centres.
LEADERSHIP gathered that because officials come to the registration centres late, there are always long queues waiting for INEC officials, compelling those who have waited for too long to offer to pay money to get registered in most cases.
“Most of us waiting for them on Monday were forced to offer cash because without it they are not ready to attend to us,” one of those who registered recently told our correspondent in confidence.
In Uyo, checks revealed that Churches have begun mass mobilisation of their members to get registered.
At a Pentecostal church in Mbiabong area of Uyo, the state capital, the church service on Sunday was a mixed grill of sermon on one hand and voter registration on the other.
Within the church premises, officials of INEC were seen registering the members before proceeding for service.
Emeka Samuel, a worker in the Church, explained that “the exercise is deliberately organised to mobilise members, especially those who had not registered before or misplaced their PVCs to get a new one to avoid being disenfranchised.
“This election is very crucial, especially for the Christians, whose feelings and sensibilities appear insignificant in the country’s scheme of things,” Elder Patrick Effiong added.
Calling on Christians not to be caught off-guard during the polls next year, Senior Pastor, James Inam Isaac, of the Way of God Fellowship Mission, lamented what he described as a clear case of injustices against Christians in the country.
There are also unsubstantiated allegations from INEC officials that they extort residents in Delta State to register for PVC but cannot be.
What is paramount in the state is the registration in houses of prominent politicians where INEC officials are bought to register close associates and supporters of the politicians and their parties.
In Rivers State, the issue of extortion by officials of the INEC is an open secret.
As part of efforts to curb the fraudulent act, officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) recently arrested a security guard attached to the INEC office in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state for allegedly extorting Nigerians who want to obtain their PVCs.
Confirming the development in a chat with LEADERSHIP, INEC resident electoral commissioner in the state, Obo Effanga, said a community youth leader in the same area was also arrested for the same offence.
“There is a security staff of INEC in Obio/Akpor, who was arrested by the DSS. They are still doing their investigation and will prosecute him.
“After then, we were also able to nab one community member from that area who was also extorting money from people at the INEC centre there. We have handed him over to the Police,” Effanga said.
The REC argued that the majority of those involved in the extortion of people who want to register for their permanent voter’s cards (PVCs) were not INEC officials.
He said, “INEC officials requesting tips before assisting people to register is not necessary at all. We have said it over and over again that if any staff demands money let us know.
“As I explained to some people, there are some people who are not INEC officials who are involved in this. Let me explain this: In this process, we have two things people can do; if you have not registered before, you need to come to an INEC office or registration centre to register so that we can capture your fingerprints and take your pictures.
“But there are a lot of other services during this period which you can actually do at home. If you have a smartphone, you can go online and do a transfer request for a new card, request for a replacement for a damaged card or lost card or make corrections to your name. You can do that without coming to an INEC office.”
In Anambra State, it has been herculean for intending registrants to get registered due to the upsurge of people trooping in and out to get registered at the centres.
Two residents, Chijioke Okafor and Mike Ezenwunne, told LEADERSHIP yesterday that they had been at the INEC State headquarters, Awka, for some days to get registered, but had yet to get registered because of the crowd.
“I came on Thursday as early as 7am but I couldn’t get registered. I also came on Friday but still faced the same problem because many people came before me,” Chijioke lamented.
Following claims of extortion, the convener of Concerned Edo Citizens Forum, Comrade Roy Oribhabor, has called on the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to launch an investigation into the allegation.
He stressed that the electoral body is not a commercial entity that should be engaged in such practices.
Oribhabor said such practices could undermine the integrity of the nation’s electoral process and INEC as an institution.
He stated: “To me, if that extortion or payment by politicians is established it is condemnable. INEC as an institution is not a revenue-making agency for them to be collecting money. It shows that they have derailed and it is an indictment on the integrity of INEC.
“I hereby call on them to desist and as a matter of patriotism commence investigation into the matter because this is capable of affecting the future of Nigeria and our democracy. Our security agencies should step up the game.”