Why Millions of Nigerians May Not Vote

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The inability of millions of Nigerians to get their PVCs is causing dissatisfaction among many eligible voters and the implication is that only about half of the electorate may vote in the February elections

Unwilling to be cowed by the fears expressed over scarcity of permanent voters cards, PVCs and the inability of many Nigerians to collect theirs, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said that the general elections scheduled to hold beginning with the presidential election on February 14, and the governorship along with the others will hold as scheduled in the already released INEC timetable. Even when the magazine spoke with people across the six-political zones, they expressed concern about the numbers of PVCs that have been collected in comparism with the registered voters. The implication is that millions who are qualified to vote may not be able to exercise their voting rights in the forthcoming general elections, owing to their inability to collect their PVCs or inability to register for fresh PVCs at INEC registration centres nationwide.

By Ovie Edomi

Unlike in 2011 general election where over 39 million people voted, statistics obtained by the magazine showed that 68.8 million people will be expected to vote in the February polls. Though INEC source says that 53.7 per cent voters turned out for the April 2011 elections, keen observers and political analysts told the magazine that with 68.8 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections, million of registered voters may not turn out to vote because of lack of PVCs. In Ondo State for instance where about 1.3 million people registered for the general election, only 850,000 voters collected their PVCs while 459,457 persons are yet to collect theirs.
In Lagos State as at the time of this investigation only 43 per cent of the registered voters have collected their PVCs. A situation that made INEC to open 245 distribution centres for the collection of the PVCs.
By February 13, 2015 when the collection of PVCs would end, those who are eligible to vote in the February 14 and 28 elections according to those with inside knowledge would still be a far cry. This is after INEC has spent N11.5 billion on distribution of the PVCs nationwide. It was believed that INEC would have spent additional N4.593 billion to distribute another 15,567,219 PVCs but the huge financial implication made the commission to return the PVCs to the various local government councils where INEC offices are located for people to collect their PVCs on or before the new February 13 2015, collection date.
Curiously, PVCs collection is higher in the northern part of Nigeria than the South, in spite of the mindless killings owing to the activities of Boko Haram, a situation that has led to the declaration of state of emergency in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states.
The PVCs collection statistics as at the time of this report show that there are more PVCs in the hands of northern electorate than those in the south. For instance, whereas, the Electoral Act and the guidelines provide that individuals are to collect their PVCs in person, and duly signed for after due identification as the bona fide owners of the PVCs, in the north, district heads were allowed to collect and warehouse PVCs on behalf of their wards in the district. Though INEC director, Voters Registry, Engr Emmanuel Akem, in an interactive session with a television station noted that over 70 per cent of the PVCs have been distributed so far to their owner. investigation by the magazine shows that in the South East, South South and South West, the total number of PVCs collected is put at 56.3 per cent, whereas the North East, North West and North Central collection of PVCs is put at 76.6 per cent. The implication is that northern collection of PVCs is above 20 per cent higher than the collection in the South. A clear indication that there are more PVCs in the hands of the electorate in the north than their southern counterparts. Insiders however told the magazine that INEC officials are having sleepless nights over the distribution of the PVCs. There are indications that despite the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan charged INEC to make sure all Nigerians get their voters card, the compliance level surrounding the PVC distribution is however still disturbing. Besides, those with inside knowledge told the magazine that many internally displaced persons, IDPs, were not captured during the recent registration exercise while those who have attained age 18 or those who got transferred to other locations and so on were expected to register. Though some officials of the commission who spoke with the magazine under anonymity said that though voting is an individual right there are people who do not want to vote and have deliberately decided not to also register for the voters’ card. Even then, the official noted that the voters card has 10 years durability and called on Nigerians not to develop empathy over the coming elections. What is not however lost in the IDPs case is that thousands of IDPs spread across the Northern part of the country will equally not be able to exercise their voting rights. Unconfirmed report says the IDPs are almost a million people.
Also INEC statistics show that over 4 million persons got involved in multiple registration and for that reason, they are not able to collect their PVCs, an indication that they will not vote, in the next elections. Although, no one can predict the percentage of the electorate that will turn out to vote in the February 14 and February 28 elections, there are fears in some states that the turnout will be very low.
In Anambra, Imo and Enugu states for instance, as at press time, the PVCs collected by voters was not up to 60 per cent. Also in the South West, especially Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ondo, the turnout for PVCs collection was not up to 65 per cent as well. In the South South, only Edo State may not have recorded above 60 per cent, of PVCs collection, but then, observers say the open involvement of ex-militants and their supporters in the next elections has made a large number of the electorate to decide not to go out to vote on the election day to avoid mayhem and maiming. Some youths and elders who spoke to the magazine in Uyo and Warri respectively, note that

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