•13.87m cards printed for valid registrants •Agency probes alleged extortion
From Damian Duruiheoma, Enugu, Sunny Nwankwo, Umuahia and Adamu Suleiman, Sokoto
Millions of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) are yet to be collected a few days before the deadline.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) admitted this yesterday, 24 hours after it gave the list of registered voters as 93.47 million.
The electoral agency last night extended the collection deadline by eight days. It will now expire on January 29.
The presidential election is slated for February 25. The National Assembly election is also slated for the same day.
The governorship and House of Assembly election will hold on March 11. INEC, which released the final list of 93.5 million registered voters for this year’s general election on Wednesday, predicated the extension on the need for all registered voters to have “ample opportunity” to collect their cards.
It added that it was encouraged to do so after noticing that thousands of PVCs were collected in the last five days since the “devolution (or distribution) to ward level started” on January 6.
The electoral umpire had fixed January 22 as the last date for PVC collection in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The INEC final list shows that of the 93,469,008 registered voters, the Northwest has the highest number with 22,255,562 and the Southwest second with 17,958,966.
Northcentral is third with 15,363,731 would-be voters; Southsouth fourth with 14,440,714 and Northeast with 12,542,429.
The Southeast has the least number, with 10,907,606 eligible voters.
A state-by-state breakdown of the list shows Lagos in the Southwest tops the list with 7,060,195 registered voters.
It is followed by Kano in the Northwest, which has 5,921,370 eligible voters.
Ekiti in the Southwest has the least number of voters with 502,251.
INEC, in a statement by its National Commissioner and spokesman Festus Okoye, said: “Collection at Registration Area (Ward) level is extended by a week from Monday 16th – Sunday 22nd January 2023.
“Collection at the local government level will resume on Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th January 2023.”
Okoye said the commission had commenced a probe of “allegations of extortion by officials at some of the collection centres and inducement by some unscrupulous voters to circumvent processes in order to obtain their PVCs”.
He added that INEC was also disturbed by allegations of discriminatory issuance of PVCs in some locations.
The National Commissioner dismissed the fear of card shortage, saying the commission “printed 13,868,441 PVCs for all new valid registrants as well as applicants for transfer or replacement.”
In Plateau, Cross River, and Enugu states, reports, however, showed impressive card collection by registered voters.
Plateau with 2.8 million registered voters has only 26 per cent of them yet to collect the PVCs as of yesterday.
In Enugu State where 2.8 million people registered, only 329,870 were yet to collect their cards as of yesterday,
In Cross River State, where 1.8 million registered, 307, 394 had not collected theirs.
INEC said there was a low turnout of voters in Plateau.
The REC, Olivo Agundu, at a stakeholder meeting, said the state recorded only 26 per cent of total PVC collection with thousands yet to be collected.
In Cross River, 307,394 potential voters are yet to collect their PVCs, according to INEC spokesperson, Mrs Tonia Nwobi.
She said 97,381 cards were produced for voters in 2019, but only 8,045 have been collected.
Nwobi added that of the 233,481 potential voters who registered for PVCs in Cross River in 2021/2022, only 68,073 persons turned up to collect the cards.
Of the 70,474 voters who transferred their voting points to Cross River, only 17, 824 persons collected their new cards leaving 52,650 cards uncollected.
Iwobi appealed to political parties and to civil society organisations to join hands with INEC to sensitise the electorate about the need to collect the cards.
No fewer than 329, 870 PVCs are yet to be collected by registered voters in Enugu.
The REC, Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwu, said before the ongoing PVCs distribution exercise commenced on December 12, 2022, there were 381,332 PVCs that were not collected.
They include 127,665 PVCs uncollected before the 2019 general elections and the commencement of continuous voter registration last year.
In Sokoto, the APC leader, Senator Aliyu Wammako, urged party supporters to get their PVCs ready.
The Sokoto North Senatorial District representative at the National Assembly made the call to a mammoth crowd of supporters who received him on arrival at his Gawon Nama Sokoto residence from Abuja.
Also, Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, advised residents who are yet to collect their PVCs to do so if they must vote.
He said PVCs were the only weapons the people of Abia needed to change 23 years of “bad leadership” in the state.
Speaking at the Annual Prayer Summit of the Assemblies of God Church, Aba District Headquarters, Otti said: “Your PVC is a tool that you can use to elect the right candidate. You can say enough is enough using your PVC at the poll.”
Some voters in Lagos State praised INEC for the seamless PVC collection process in the state.
They spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Surulere, Amuwo Odofin and Igando, describing the process as seamless.
Mr Emmanuel Ofomata, who collected his PVC at Amuwo-Odofin, said he was impressed with the process and the promptness of the INEC officials at the venue.
Ms Geraldine Oge, the Registration Area Officer at Gbaja Stadium, ward six in the Surulere area of Lagos State, said there was a low turnout for PVC collection at the ward.