•Claims different parties involved in plot
•Says INEC has allayed its fears
•Our system entertains no impostor, electoral body assures
•FG commends Meta’s plan to protect integrity of 2023 election
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has alleged that millions of voters in the region, particularly, women are being made to surrender their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for N2, 000 by some political parties contesting the 2023 elections. NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, disclosed this yesterday, in a statement.
Baba-Ahmed said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed what the public had been aware of in the last few weeks and allayed the forum’s fears. He claimed all the political parties were involved in the suppression plot.
But the INEC leadership assured Nigerians that the new technology introduced into the country’s electoral system would not entertain any impostors, because its security features were a defensive standout against such forgeries.
At the same time, the federal government commended Meta, owners of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, for taking clearly outlined steps to protect the integrity of the country’s general election next year.
However, decrying the widespread and targeted buying of PVCs in many parts of the north, NEF stated that it had been following this worrying phenomenon. It advised community leaders and major stakeholders on the dangers of disenfranchising large numbers of citizens.
NEF pointed out that it had also undertaken its own investigations, which prompted the current public warning.
According to the statement, “Thousands or possibly even millions of northern voters, particularly women, are being made to surrender their PVCs for a pittance, in most instances, not more than N2000.
“In some instances, they are told their cards will be returned to them after they are processed for additional payments as poverty relief. No cards are returned.
“Our investigations suggest that this an aggressive and blatant voter suppression attempt to reduce the voting powers of the north. We have been assured by INEC that this practice in itself will not compromise its systems and processes.
“People, who are involved in this practice appear to be working for different parties, but they target communities, where they assume their parties or candidates have comparative advantages or disadvantages.”
The forum advised registered voters not to part with their PVCs under any circumstance, irrespective of the party or candidate they support.
It said northerners must vote in the forthcoming elections, saying it is the only way the region can reverse its current fortunes and circumstances.
NEF added, “To sell your card now, or sell your vote in next year’s elections, is to betray your responsibility to improve our circumstances and future.
“Every northerner should know that our voting population and turnout during elections are the only powers we have left, but we can use them to affect, who will lead us at the next elections.
“Voters from other parts of the country are jealously guarding their voting opportunities. Our relative poverty now is no excuse to surrender the opportunity to improve our future.”
The forum called on INEC to intensify its public awareness campaign against this threat to the rights of voters, while calling on the relevant authorities to raise vigilance levels and arrest the ugly practice.
It further called on the federal and state governments to intensify the campaign against violent threats that could prevent millions of voters in the north, and other parts of the country, from voting.
Equally speaking on the development, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said, “For the 2023 general election, every voter must possess a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) issued by INEC, and must be accredited by the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in order to cast his vote on Election Day.
“INEC assures Nigerians that no impostor, using another person’s PVC, will be able to vote at any of our polling units on election day. That person will be detected and handed over to the security agents on ground. My strong advice to anyone planning to do this is, have a rethink and not allow himself to be made a scapegoat.
“But the other dimension being alleged that some persons might be purchasing PVCs with the aim of disenfranchising voters is a sad reflection of the mischief that some human beings are capable of in our society.
“However, buying the required number of PVCs off the voters in any geopolitical zone in Nigeria with the aim of influencing the result of a presidential election will be a Herculean task.
“The threshold prescribed by the 1999 Constitution for a winner to be declared in a presidential election is that a candidate must win the majority votes and must also win a quarter of all the votes cast in two-thirds of the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which ensures spread.
“So, how many PVCs can you possibly buy to be able to determine a winner in a presidential election? Nevertheless, the commission, through its voter education efforts, has been imploring Nigerians not to sell their votes or part with their PVCs.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday at “PMB Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023)” that a deliberate initiative introduced by the social media operator, Meta, would protect the 2023 elections from dangers posed by fake news and disinformation. Mohammed said Meta had detailed the actions it planned to take to combat disinformation and make political advertising more transparent, saying the company has committed to these actions before, during and after the elections.
The minister stated, “This is commendable and it is in line with what we have always said, that the platform owners have a big role to play in checking the spread of fake news, disinformation and hate speech via their platforms.
“Meta has demonstrated a great sense of responsibility and we hope the company will live up to its promise.
“We also urge other platform owners, like Google (owners of YouTube and others), ByteDance (owners of TikTok), Twitter, and the Telegram Group Inc. (owners of Telegram messenger) to emulate Meta by taking positive steps to prevent the spread of fake news, disinformation and hate speech via their platforms ahead, during and after the 2023 elections.”