The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday stated that its officials cannot be involved in moving permanent voter cards (PVCs) to unwarranted places.
It disclosed that its processes, accountability and audit protocols will not allow its staff to hide or transport PVCs in favour of any politician.
INEC said this while reacting to video clips circulating on the social media showing the discovery of thousands of PVCs hidden underground locations, or dumbed in dustbins and in the streets.
The nation’s electoral management body declared that anyone with such disused PVCs is just wasting his time.
The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, told LEADERSHIP yesterday that it was unthinkable for any INEC member of staff to dump PVCs in that manner.
“What purpose will such an action serve?” he asked.
Oyekanmi explained that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) is in charge of all PVCs printed for voters in each state while electoral officers are responsible and accountable for PVCs sent to local government offices, adding that PVCs cannot be collected by proxy.
On the trending videos, he said, “I have come across a number of unverified video clips circulating on the social media showing some cut-to-size plastic materials which are being described as Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
“But these videos do not provide sufficient evidence to ascertain that the plastics found are indeed PVCs issued by INEC. Our PVCs have unique features, and the details on them can be verified on our national register of voters which is online.
“It is unthinkable that any INEC staff would dump PVCs somewhere in that manner. What purpose will such an action serve? Our processes, accountability, and audit protocols will not even allow it.”
He said when the commission has a genuine case, it quickly takes action.
For instance, he said when the commission received reports of some PVCs being dug up in the course of a road construction in Rivers State recently, it took it up, adding that the commission was working with the police to unravel the mystery.
He further said people should not forget that some of its offices in the South East region had been variously attacked by criminals in the last two years during which, in some cases, PVCs were destroyed.
“Those PVCs were promptly reprinted by the Commission, so anyone with such disused PVCs is just wasting his time.
“My appeal to those who claim to have found dumped PVCs is that they should report their findings at the police station closest to them or at our state office at which the PVCs were found. This will enable us to investigate and take appropriate action,” he said.
Political Parties, CSOs Ask Commission To Unravel Mystery
Concerned at the above incidences, political parties in Nigeria have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to unravel the mystery behind the large quantity of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) being found in the streets and other places.
The political parties stated that trending videos showing PVCS being found in the streets in large quantities are a source of worry, and that INEC, which is responsible for printing the cards, should come clean on the process leading to such incidences.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the chairman, Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) which is the umbrella body of the political parties in the country, Yabagi Sani, said the parties are worried at the trending videos, even as he stated that only INEC can explain to Nigerians what is really happening.
“I thought it was only one (incidence). But for this to keep happening, INEC must come clean on these mysterious videos showing PVCs in large quantities being found on the streets.”
“Perhaps, because of Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) some people now know that they cannot vote more than once, so they may not be able to use those PVCs that were hitherto acquired through questionable means. That is one school of thought, ” he said.
On whether the PVCs are genuine ones or not, Sani said: ” Nobody has been able to ascertain that. they might be genuine, they may not. They may have been procured not through the normal process. So, they don’t see any sense in keeping them, because the BIVAS will not accept them during the election.”
Sani urged INEC to intensify efforts in unravelling the matter and those behind it.
LEADERSHIP reports that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have joined political parties in expressing concern over the viral videos, saying they suspect the PVCs to be fake.
The CSOs said they will work with INEC and other relevant authorities to ensure that only accredited voters participate in the election.
The CSOs who spoke to LEADERSHIP are Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Transparency International (TI) and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs said they are surprised and shocked at how PVCs are now being found on the streets.
He said: “We are surprised and shocked to hear that PVCs are being found in some places. Each person is supposed to have only one PVC. You are not supposed to have multiple PVCs.
“If PVCs are found in the streets, it means that two things might have happened: those who have lost confidence in the political process and the leadership may have decided not to participate in the electoral process.
“If they have done that, that is unpatriotic because the government spent money to print those PVCs. So, it is wrong for anybody who is aggrieved with the electoral process to also do the wrong thing by throwing away those PVCs.
“Second, if these PVCs are genuine, TMG with other CSOs will ensure that we interrogate the process to ensure that only those who are accredited and verified are allowed to vote. If that goes smoothly, it will mean that some people have used fake PVCs in the previous elections and are now afraid. But all these will be subject to verification. If we see any infraction, we will raise an alarm.”
Elections Will Hold Next Year, Military Assures Nigerians
Meanwhile, the chief of defence staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor has assured Nigerians that the military is prepared to defend the 2023 electoral process.
He spoke yesterday in Abuja during the unveiling the suspects arrested over the June 5,2022 bombing of the Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, by terrorists.
Irabo said, “Sometime last week, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) had a forum for personnel of the police, the military and other security agencies that will be involved in the election and I made a statement that as members of the Armed Forces, we have a covenant with the electoral process.
“That statement presupposes that we will do anything to create the condition for a free, safe and secure conduct of the 2023 general elections. We will do everything to ensure that nothing stops it. We have a covenant with the democratic process.”