Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have lamented their inability to get the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday ended its Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that the INEC had said it would suspend the exercise on August 31 until after the 2019 elections.
The suspension earlier fixed for August 17 was moved to August 31 to allow more people to register.
In most registration centres visited by our reporters in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, many residents said they had to pay as much as N500 and N1,000 to register yesterday, being deadline day.
Hundreds of prospective voters,within few days to the end of the exercise had been trooping to the centres as early as 5am to write their names and book for early chance to be captured,
It was gathered that despite the orderly arrangement, some staff of the commission took advantage of the situation to make brisk business with the collection of N200, N500 and N1,000 to ensure quick registration.
At the INEC office at Onopa in Yenagoa local government area, many people were locked outside the gate, while the few whose names appeared top on the list were allowed into the premises in trenches of tens for capturing.
Some of the intended voters who spoke with journalists claimed that the main reason for the last minute rush was due to shortage of data capturing equipment for the exercise.
Also, a voter who didn’t want his name mentioned in the report said that the exercise was marred by insufficient materials and called for extension of the exercise to accommodate good numbers of eligible Nigerians.
A voter who identified himself as Pere Godstime said he has been frequent in INEC office for the past three days without having a chance to be captured in the exercise.
He urged the commission to always put necessary mechanism on ground in future exercise.
Some men of the Nigerian Police Force who were deployed to maintain security allegedly took advantage of the crowded situation and embarked on collection of N300 to quicken the chances of prospective voter to register.
Also, Lagos residents besieged registration centres across the state yesterday in a last-minute rush to beat the deadline as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) drew to a close ahead of the 2019 general election.
At centres visited, residents seeking to register in order to beat the deadline shared their experiences.
At INEC office in Ikotun/Igando Local Council Development Area, eligible voters had besieged the registration centre as at 7am.
Mr Olugbenga Ogundayo, a civil servant, told NAN that he was at the centre at 5pm on Thursday and INEC officials gave him number 182 to come back on Friday for registration.
According to him, this was because they (the officials) already had many people in queue to register for Thursday.
He said, “As a worker, it is not easy for me to leave my work and come for the registration. Many times, l had come here after close of work and they would say they had closed for the day. I have been on queue since 6.30 a.m with the number they gave me yesterday.
“They are yet to start calling us in for the exercise. I am praying they attend to me today; if not, INEC will have to extend this exercise so that many of us, especially workers, can be registered”.
A businesswoman, Mrs Romoke Akanji, told NAN that the long queue had persisted in the last two weeks and she could not stand the rigour.
Her words: “The suffering is too much. I just said let me come and try my luck this morning, and as at 7:20am, they gave me number 480 in the queue.
“I am still wondering how long I will wait here because I have lost hope of being registered. We are begging them to extend the registration so that many of us can be captured”.
A trader, Miss Francisca Esione, claimed that one registration centre in Ikotun/Igando could not cater for the large number of residents.
“I had been here three times before now, and today I have been here since morning; you can see the crowd. What they have been doing in this centre is to register about 150 to 200 people; after that, they will stop for the day and ask us to go. They should just help us extend this registration and also create more centres so that we do not have to travel far”, she said.
It was also discovered that at 9am when INEC officials were calling people in for registration, the last person in the queue was number 618.
An INEC official at the centre who spoke on condition of anonymity said the centre began registration at 9am and closed by 5pm and would only attend to people in queue.
He said, “We register about 250 to 300 people a day but you know since the exercise is closing today, people are coming out in their numbers because many Nigerians like to wait for the last minute.
“As you can see, we are calling them in by their numbers because the crowd is too much; it is the best way to control the crowd and make our work easy”.
Hundreds of residents in mushin local government area were also said to have come out in the last-minute rush.
One of them, Mr Idris Olubiyi, said he had been coming to the registration centre since Monday but had yet to be registered.
“I have been coming here everyday since Monday; this exercise is not well organised, I have not registered despite my eagerness to do so; it is very frustrating”, he said.
Ms Funmilayo Daniel, a student, said she had been there since 6:00am to be registered.
She said that she would not be able to vote in 2019 if the registration closed.
An octogenarian, Pa Oluwole Adeoye, told NAN at the centre that he had been there since 5am.
Mrs Gbemisola Alalade, another resident, said she wrote her name on the list since 6:00am and was waiting to be called by the officials to collect a form to fill.
“The process is very slow at this centre. I was here on Wednesday and Thursday but I was told that the equipment were down. So, I had to go home in frustration,” she said.
Alalade said there was pressure because some workers, especially in the private sector, may not have been given permission to go for registration during working days.