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HOME / Column / Features / SATURDAY COVER
PVCs Collection: A Tale Of Many Parts
Published Jan 14, 2023 IN Column, Features, SATURDAY COVER,
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  • The Frenzy In Contrast To Apathy In Some Places
  • INEC Under Scrutiny Over Smooth Exercise
  • Nigerians Get Knocks For ‘Fire Brigade Approach’


THE ongoing collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) across Nigeria is reminiscent of similar exercises in times past, where the atmospherics reached pitch levels; from registering for the National Identification Number (NIN) and subsequent linkage to SIM cards, even the voter registration exercise itself, etcetera-indeed, just any national exercise, which had been boxed into a time frame- trust Nigerians on that habitual last-minute rush, such that it was observed that many currently jostling for their PVCs, particularly between January 5-29, 2023 (initially Jan. 16), at the ward level, could well have done so before INEC, after screaming ‘blue heavens’ for months, was made to fix a window period for the collection, as the uncollected PVCs stared the Commission in the face, with the much-awaited polls drawing nearer by the day.

Nonetheless, a middle-aged man, Mr. Dan Umunna, who was waiting to collect his PVC at Uzoigwe Primary School, West End, Asaba, was filled with a self-righteous indignation, as he put the blame on the huge turnout of people, but by his own making, he was among the number that made INEC to cry out over uncollected PVCs, having left his PVC in the Commission’s custody for longer than necessary. Such other persons as Umunna were found across various PVC collection centres spread across Asaba, the Delta State capital and its environs, as it was discovered following the monitoring of the exercise by The Pointer; for instance, Asagba Primary School, Umuezei, Asaba, Abu Ato Primary School, Umuaji, Ogwa Umuonyia Hall, Umuonaje and Zappa Primary School, Umuagu, Asaba. Other centres covered by our correspondents included St. John Bosco Catholic Church, Ugbomanta, Asaba, Oneh Primary School, Cable Point I and Ahabam Primary School, Cable Point II, Asaba. A visit to the ward centres, over the current week, revealed a mixed-bag of issues. While some centres had low turnout of residents and seamless distribution of the PVCs, it was tales of woes in many others with an uncontrollable number of residents. One observable feature was that some political players and other interested parties tried to impose themselves on the process, thus spreading rumours of merchandise in the PVCs, although some of them could be given some credit for going all out to mobilise and assist the people at the ward level on the PVCs’ collection. Yet, it was not an easy ride for many eligible voters. In Asaba, the turnout of residents ranged from low, to moderate and high. The distribution was smooth in wards where the turnout was low but herculean in wards with high turnout of residents.

But a positive assessment of the process was rendered by Secretary to Local Government (SLG), Aniocha South Local Government Area, Mr. Emordi Okonjo, who described the collection of PVCs in the 11 wards in the local government area as hitch-free, explaining further that it was a seamless and convenient process for both the eligible voters and INEC officials, from Ogwashi-Uku to Ubulu-Uku, Nsukwa, Ubulu-Unor, Ubulu-Okiti, Ejeme-Aniogor, Ewulu, Adonte and indeed, all the nooks and crannies of the local government area. However, the SLG, Mr. Emordi Okonjo, explained that the success so far recorded did not happen by chance, but through the hardwork and commitment to play his part towards the success of the exercise by the Local Government Chairman, Pastor Jude Chukwunweike. Okonjo explained last Thursday, during an interview he granted to The Pointer, that his boss, Pastor Jude Chukwunweike, who is the Council Chairman of Aniocha South LGA of Delta State, “is visiting all the wards in the local government area. Tomorrow (last Friday), he will be completing the ward visitation by going to wards 1, 2, 3 and 11. The purpose of the ward visits is to see things for himself and ensure that the process is pervaded by a peaceful atmosphere, which has been the case so far in Aniocha South. In addition, it was the outcome of a Stakeholders meeting between INEC and the political parties in Aniocha South ahead of the ward level PVC collection, in which it was agreed by all the political parties that they would be supportive of the exercise.” He added: “However, only the PDP is visible across the 11 wards, helping to talk to the people on the need to go out and collect their PVCs, while calling for orderly behaviour. As you can see, all the other parties, including the APC and Labour Party all shied away from this responsibility, as we all agreed, leaving only the PDP to do what was agreed at the Stakeholders’ Meeting. Meanwhile, the Council Chairman, Pastor Chukwunweike, is undeterred and is not discouraged by their apathy to the success of the PVC collection in Aniocha South. But he has said that after the 10-day period, he will continue to champion the call for collection of all uncollected PVCs in Aniocha South LGA.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had commenced the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) at its local government offices nationwide, then following the rancour which ensued, had to decentralise the exercise to the ward level across the 774 LGAs nationwide. The Pointer reports that the exercise had commenced simultaneously at INEC FCT headquarters and its six area council offices. In many of the PVC collection centres in Asaba, registered voters, in their hundreds were seen on the queue for the sake of collecting their PVCs. At Zappa Primary School in Umuagu, Asaba, it was observed that the PVC collection was done depending on the mode of registration, including those who did fresh registration, transfers, requested for replacement and others. Some of the residents who spoke to The Pointer expressed mixed reactions on the exercise. A resident, Mr. Ekwenuya Ezekiel, after collection of his PVC, last Monday, commended the process, saying it went on well and smoothly. Ekwenuya reported that he collected his PVC in less than 30 minutes, which in his estimation, INEC did not do so badly; but he however, said there was the need to re-strategise the co-ordination of the crowd. “Already, the process is simplified by arranging the collection points into wards, if the crowd can be better co-ordinated, it would improve the process,’’ Ekwenuya said. Another Zappa resident, Ewa Ogbonna, said he arrived at the centre some minutes past 8 a.m. last Tuesday and collected his card before 9 a.m. without much stress. “I did PVC transfer sometimes in July 2022 and collected my card today. I must commend INEC. It did not take me up to 15 minutes to collect my card. I think the problem is we, the registered voters, If we can be more organised, respect INEC guidelines, the process will be faster,’’ Ogbonna said. However, Miss Dumebi Okolie, another resident, who had collected her PVC, last Friday at Uzoigwe Primary School, West End, Asaba, said the process of collection was cumbersome because of the volume of cards involved. Also at Uzoigwe Primary School, Mrs. Adeleke Aina who hails from Ekiti State, expressed fears that she may not be able to vote during next month’s presidential election and subsequent schedule of elections. Her reason: “getting my PVC has become a tug of war. We are not sure that we will get the cards. The crowd is too much. INEC has been telling people to go and collect their PVCs without making it easy for people to do so. I have been coming here for days without success. At Oneh Primary School, Cable Point I, another resident put it this way: “I registered here but now lives at Issele-Azagba. How many people will come that far to collect their PVC with the fuel scarcity and hike in transport fares. But I have been here two times and couldn’t collect my PVC. The crowd is unbelievable and INEC officials are not organised. I have tried but INEC appears to be disfranchising people. I fear I’m one of them because I don’t think I’ll return here.

An INEC official at the INEC State Office in Asaba, who preferred anonymity, as he was not authorised to defend the Commission, said that to quicken the process of collecting the cards, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, started distributing the cards at the ward level, some days ago. But it was still clumsy in many areas as the Uzoigwe collection centre showed. The INEC staff informed that the ward-level exercise would only last between January 6 and 15, 2023, after which the exercise reverts to INEC local government offices till January 23. Going by our findings, many feared that they will not collect their PVS before the collection deadline. Before now, the PVCs were only available for collection at the commission’s 774 local government offices across the country.

Even the media was not left out of the shabby treatment INEC has been accused of meting out to prospective voters. A journalist in Asaba, Mr. Ifeanyi Wadia (not real names) gave a timeline of his travails. He registered for his PVC at the Oshimili South LGA INEC Office in Asaba in 2018, prior to the 2019 general elections, but upon making himself available at the point of registration to collect his PVC around December 2019, he was merely told that the card was not ready. If he had any misgivings over exercising his franchise at the 2019 polls, it was justified by the Commission, as he was told in January 2019, few weeks to the polls that his PVC could not be found. ‘Lost but not found’, so without a PVC, he stood idly by while the destiny of his nation was being decided. Close to four years later, he said he tried again in December 2022, but little did he suspect that he was in for another surprise. He was told by the Commission that a PVC he registered for in Asaba was domiciled several kilometers from Asaba, but in Warri: so, he is to proceed to a collection point at Nana College, Warri and subsequently, to vote at a certain Peace Primary School, Warri, being his polling unit. In the face of seemingly adamant INEC officials, he tried to salvage the situation, by seeking a transfer of his PVC to Asaba and got quite an assurance to that effect. But for putting his trust in INEC, he suffered another heart break. That was at the outset of the ongoing PVCs collection, when INEC reiterated to him that nothing had changed and that his PVC remains in Warri. As a patriotic Nigerian who is decided on the candidates of his choice, he was not ready to be disenfranchised in another election cycle. So to avoid being beaten back to back by INEC’s sloppiness, he proceeded at his own expense, to Warri to collect his PVC after about five years of registering as a voter, for no fault of his, but clearly that of the Commission. And he would yet vote at his own expense as he would have to travel to Warri to cast his vote come next month.

Yet, it was observed that the bitterest part is that having been catapulted by INEC to a different Senatorial District that he knows virtually nothing about, he would not be able to vote for his preferred candidates at the State Assembly, House of Representatives and Senatorial elections. But INEC has not heard the last of him, as he is now demanding for compensation by INEC and the Federal Government, for the monies spent on transportation now and in the future due to wrongful relocation of his PVC and polling unit to a distant town, in a different Senatorial District, as well as for damages for being disenfranchised at the State Assembly, House of Reps and Senatorial elections and future local government elections in the state. He believes that this is a test case that may yet deal a deserving blow to the Commission and get it to sit up to its responsibilities.

At the Okpanam Town Hall, one Mrs. Uchenna Nnadi, gave an account filled with lamentation. According to her, the crowd was large, distribution was disorderly and some agents tried to extort people. She said: “As at 9:30 am when I arrived at the centre a large crowd was already there. Some claimed they had been coming for days without success while some said they came as early as 6am. No INEC official was on hand to give relevant information on what is required or how to go about it. Everybody was just waiting under the scorching sun.”

Another prospective voter: “I heard that those who could afford to pay paid money to some agents who collect peoples’ slips and go inside to bring their cards. Some, who couldn’t pay, stayed on waiting endlessly. However, the collection of the PVCs was smooth at St. John Bosco Catholic Church, Ugbomanta, Ogwa Umuonyia Hall, Umuonaje and a few other places last Wednesday.

The turn out of residents was moderate when The Pointer visited. At Umuonaje, one of the residents, Mr. Umeh Onyeka, said: “the process is smooth, in less than 10 minutes I collected my own, I wi l l urge every one to come out and collect their PVCs”. Another resident, Mrs. Loveth Kanayo, said: “the process for now is just fantastic. With the turnout, the election will change the narrative of governance in Nigeria.” Also speaking, the police officer attached to the ward said that the process was peaceful. “You can see for yourself, nobody is fomenting trouble, in under 10 to 15 minutes, you get your PVC without paying anybody.” The INEC adhoc supervisor, identified as Vincent Okafor, urged people that are yet to collect their PVCs to take advantage of the proximity to get their PVCs, especially during weekends.” At Anwai Road, Asaba, INEC officials had a tough time attending to the prospective voters. Some peoples’ names were called, but their cards could not be found. Many of them left the centre when they were not attended to by officials of the commission. Mr. Efe Solomon, lamented that, “l came around at 8am, they have not attended to me. We were given a list to write our names but the number of officials posted to the ward was inadequate. As at 2pm, they had not attended to me. Everything was disorderly.” One of those who got their cards said he spent about three hours before he was able to collect his PVC and noted that, “the process is not too tidy as the officials failed to make adequate provisions for the smooth collection of the cards.

If you look around, you will notice that we are not too many, but we are not orderly and it makes the process cumbersome. The officials should design a way to make the process easier and the crowd should be controlled.” Mrs. Agnes Arimokwu, said she spent about two hours on the queue only to be told that her card was not ready. “INEC should devise a means of getting prospective voters to inform them if their cards are ready, rather than coming here to waste time and energy to find out that the card is not ready. Since they have our contact number, they should send text messages to inform us about the card. I have been here for two hours but found out that my card is not ready.” She also urged the commission to put in place adequate security, noting that some hoodlums tried to hijack the process.

Others who also spoke to The Pointer expressed their frustration with the process, showing skepticism if they would be able to vote in the general elections. According to Mr. Ismail Demola, a trader in Asaba, speaking last Friday, “I got to the place (Anwai Road, Asaba) at 8am and as at 12 noon, I had not been attended to, which is the reason I am going back to my business and will possibly return by weekend.” Another resident, Uju Okonkwo berated the officials for not being diligent with the process and urged the commission to further decentralise the process to the unit level to allow everyone access to their PVCs. “I came out as early as 9am based on what we were told by INEC, but there was no official on ground to attend to us,” However, a senior official at the LGA INEC office, who spoke anonymously, assured that the noticeable hitches had been resolved and officers set to designated places for the assignment.

At Uzoigwe Primary School, last Friday, following a riotous scene, an INEC official warned: “everyone should move back, if not, nobody will get his or her card”. But the crowd only shouted back at her, causing a near pandemonium. She could be heard saying that the PVC distribution would last for 10 days and therefore, was surprised that the crowd was restive and impatient. “Everyone is going to get his card, I am at a loss why these people are not taking it easy,” the official was heard saying. In some places, some persons complained that their names were not among the PVCs being distributed. One said at Uzoigwe Primary School: “I registered, saw my name on the list displayed but they are telling me that my card is not there. What happened to the card?”, a lady simply identified as Theresa queried. About five persons complained that their cards were not available which an INEC official said, would be looked into after the 10 days’ distribution. “We shall collate all the names of those whose cards are not here and send them to national office for appropriate action,” he said.

Hence, many of the prospective voters urged INEC to make it easier for them to collect the PVCs, as the Commission may not want to go into the elections with many of the PVCs still in its custody. Rather, having claimed that over 90 million Nigerians are billed to vote in the upcoming general elections, it would only be a win-win situation, if the prospective voters are armed with their PVCs before they could no longer have the chance to do so by the deadline of January 29, 2023.

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