Over five million Nigerians out of the 93m who registered to vote have yet to claim their Permanent Voter Cards barely four months to the 2023 election.
Findings by The PUNCH across 19 states indicate that Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Ekiti and Enugu states are leading the states with huge numbers of unclaimed PVCs despite the enlightenment campaigns carried out by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Understandably, the All Progressives Congress, Labour Party, Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party and others are worried the forthcoming election may be marred by voter apathy.
The INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu had disclosed during a meeting with political parties in Abuja last week that over 2.7m new registrations between June 28, 2021 and July 31, 2022, were invalid.
During the 2019 general elections, the commission noted that out of the about 82.3m Nigerians in the voter register, only 28.6m voted which led to the re-election of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), who polled 15m votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar, who scored 11.2m votes.
During the Lagos state governorship elections in 2019, Babajide Sanwo-Olu got 739,445 votes to defeat his closest rival, Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party who had 206,141 votes.
Both candidates recorded less than one million votes despite the fact that the state as of then had six million registered voters.
Findings on Monday showed that 963,884 PVCs have yet to be collected in Lagos, Ogun 661,643, Delta 300,000, Ekiti 239,858 and Enugu 160,000.
The commission’s Public Affairs Officer in Lagos, Mrs Adenike Oriowo put the number of uncollected cards at 963,884 as of October 21, 2022.
In a statement on Monday, she further disclosed that 37,832 new PVCs have not been collected out of the 60,370 received from the INEC’s national headquarters.
The statement said, “Overall total PVCs received from the national headquarters is 6,630,661. Overall total PVCs collected as of October 21, 2022, is 5,666,777, and overall PVCs uncollected as of October 21, 2022, is 963,884.”
INEC Public Relations
According to the INEC Public Relations Officer in Ekiti State, Mrs Rolake Odebunmi, there are 988,923 registered voters in the state and 239,858 among them had collected their PVCs.
Odebunmi stated that further action would commence on November 12 with a nationwide display of voter registers.
In Ogun state, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Niyi Ijalaye disclosed that 661,643 PVCs have yet to be collected.
The REC however said the total number of registered voters would be disclosed in the next two weeks after the cleanup of the voter register by INEC.
Also speaking with one of our correspondents, the representative of the Public Affairs office of INEC in Gombe, Mohorret Bigun stated that no fewer than 95,959 cards were still in their custody.
In Ebonyi, it was stated that over 127,000 PVCs were yet to be collected while the number of unclaimed PVCs in Sokoto was put at 124,963. Some of the cards, it was gathered, have not been claimed since 2019.
At a recent stakeholders’ meeting, the Administrative Secretary of Sokoto INEC, Hauwa’u Aliyu said 148,446 voter cards were issued to the local government areas from 2019 to date but only 24,483 were collected.
Other states with a high number of uncollected PVCs include Adamawa 40,000; Kano 389,000; Niger 45,000; Bauchi 38,265 and Yobe 78,000.
But responding to the development, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi argued that more Nigerians had collected their PVCs over the years than those who haven’t.
“For instance, the total number of registered voters as of 2019 was 84,004,084. Out of this, 72,775,502 or 86.63 per cent have collected their PVCs, leaving 11,228,582 uncollected PVCs as of 11th February 2019.
“However, Nigerians have been collecting their PVCs since then, although in trickles. Don’t forget that we conducted Continuous Voter Registration between 28th June 2021 and 31st July 2022. The PVCs of those that registered between June 2021 and January 2022 have been printed and the rate of collection of this set of PVCs has been quite impressive,’’ Oyekanmi submitted.
The press secretary also disclosed that the full report of the uncollected PVCs would be given by the INEC chairman in February just before the Presidential election.
While admonishing Nigerians to collect their cards so they can exercise their franchise, he said, ‘’Creating awareness and urging eligible voters to collect their PVCs is a collective and not only INEC’s responsibility. Other stakeholders, especially the media, also have a responsibility to encourage Nigerians to pick up their PVCs.
“Without a PVC, no voter will be allowed to vote. That is why it is very important for voters to collect their cards. The Commission will continue to raise awareness among registered voters who are yet to collect their PVCs to do so.’’
APC, LP, NNPP
The Chief Spokesperson of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, believed that the commission owed Nigerians some explanation for the poor response to PVCs collection.
In his submission, the spokesperson of the Atiku-Okowa Presidential Campaign Council, Kola Ologbondiyan stated the INEC chairman had a responsibility to deliver a free, fair and credible election in 2023.
Speaking in the same vein, the Chief Spokesperson of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko, equally asked the INEC to go the extra mile to ensure many Nigerians are not disenfranchised.
Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Victor Ayeni, Gift Habib, El-Ameen Ibrahim, Chima Azubuike, Raphael Ede, Aisha Wakaso, Abiodun Nejo, Daud Olatunji, Edward Nnachi, Gbenga Odogun and Patrick Odey.