By kayode Robert Idowu
Preparatory to the governorship election in Ekiti state scheduled for June 21, 2014, and that in Osun State fixed for August 9, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently distributed the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) of voters duly registered in 2011. The Commission also conducted Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) for the benefit of those who have just turned 18 years of age.
PVCs are being produced by INEC for voters whose biometric data – including the record of at least two fingerprints from each hand – were captured during the general registration in 2011. Recall that the general requirement for that registration was that the 10 fingerprints of every eligible voter should be captured; excepting, of course, persons for whom this was not practicable owing to physical handicap. But then, some technical challenges were experienced in the course of the exercise which resulted in cases whereby fewer than 10 fingerprints of some voters were actually captured. Meanwhile, INEC’s business rules for printing the PVCs require, among other things, that a voter’s data must contain a minimum of two fingerprints from each hand so that the card, when printed, can be read electronically with card readers that will be deployed for the 2015 general election.
The CVR, on the other hand, is primarily targeted at persons who turned 18 years since the general registration of 2011, as well as those who were 18 years at the time yet did not present themselves for registration. But equally important, it is an opportunity for persons who were registered in 2011 and were issued the Temporary Voter Card (TVC), but who for whatever reason did not find their names on the biometric Register of Voters or did not have the PVC printed for them, to come out and get re-registered.
In Ekiti and Osun states, the PVCs were distributed simultaneously from Friday, 7th March, 2014 to Sunday, 9th March, 2014; while the CVR was conducted from Wednesday, 12th March, 2014 to Monday, 17th March, 2014. The cards were distributed at the polling unit level, namely at the existing 2, 195 polling units in Ekiti and the 3, 010 polling units in Osun; but the CVR was conducted at the Registration Area Centre (i.e. Ward) level, of which Ekiti has 177 and Osun, 332. Also in Ekiti State, the Continuous Voter Registration was conducted in 29 existing polling units with less than 100 registered voters; while in Osun, it was conducted in 59 existing polling units where there were no data of registrants from the 2011 exercise, and seven other polling units that had less than 100 registered voters. The following outcomes were recorded by INEC from the two exercises:
A total of 657, 256 cards were printed by INEC for PVC distribution in the state. By 9th March when the distribution exercise ended, 347, 741 cards (representing 52.93%) were collected by verified holders. INEC’s rules forbid collection by proxy, in order to prevent abuses that could frustrate the whole intention to check electoral malpractices for which the cards are being produced in the first place. Of the number of cards collected by holders during that exercise, 164, 839 (46. 9%) were for males while 182, 902 (53.1%) were for females.
The uncollected cards were at the end of the exercise taken to respective local government office of the Commission for onward collection by verified holders. More recent records show that a total of 371, 925 PVCs, representing 56.50% of the total volume produced for the state, had been collected as at the 11th of April, 2014. Of this figure, 177, 305 cards (47.14%) were for males and 194, 620 (52.86%) for females. This left a balance of 285, 331 cards as at that date. For the CVR, the Commission recorded 78, 875 new registrants in Ekiti State – that is, pending the removal of cases of multiple registrations and the application of INEC’s business rules for printing Permanent Voter Cards. This figure was made up of 34, 160 (45.6%) males and 40, 715 (54.4%) females.
There were 1, 256, 569 PVCs produced for registered voters in Osun State ahead of the distribution exercise. By the end of the exercise on 9th March, 697, 574 cards (55.5%) were collected by verified holders, comprising 327, 388 (46.9%) males and 370, 186 (53.1%) females. The unclaimed cards were at the end of the exercise taken to respective local government office of INEC in the state for onward collection by holders. More recent records show that a total of 736, 570 cards, representing 59.6% of the total volume produced for the state, had been collected by verified holders as at 23rd April, 2014. This left a balance of 519, 999 cards as at that date.
For the Continuous Voter Registration, 149, 089 new registrants were recorded in Osun – pending removal of multiple registrations and the application of INEC’s business rules for printing Permanent Voter Cards. This figure was made up of 70, 024 (47%) males and 79, 065 (53%) females.
Salient issues arising from the PVC distribution and Continuous Voter Registration in Ekiti and Osun states, which are basically a prelude to imminent conduct of similar exercises in all other states across the country, are as follows: All unclaimed cards that were taken to local government offices of INEC for onward issuance, ahead of the upcoming elections, need to be collected by legitimate holders. In other words, registered voters who are yet to collect their cards are strongly advised to go to respective local government office of the Commission to do so. For avoidance of doubt, Temporary Voter Cards that were issued in 2011 will not be used for the upcoming governorship elections as well as the 2015 general election.
The Commission has put in place strict controls for the collection of the PVCs from its local government offices, in order to ensure that the cards are issued only to verified, legitimate holders. In other states across the country where distribution of PVCs and continuous voter registration are upcoming, previously registered persons need to use the display of the Register of Voters that will precede CVR to double-check their names on the register. This is important because, should they find their names missing on the register, they could use the opportunity of the CVR to get their data re-captured.
Continuous voter registration is not for persons who lost their temporary voter cards, or who wish to vote in areas other than where they were registered in 2011. Should such persons re-register during CVR, the act will amount to double or multiple registration, which is a punishable electoral offence. What the law provides for is that persons who lost their voter card should write the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of their state of domicile for replacement; while voters willing to relocate should write the REC, through the Electoral Officer (EO) of the local government where they are presently domicile, to request the transfer of their data.
INEC is more convinced than ever that preparations being made for the conduct of free, fair and credible governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states as well as the 2015 general election are on course. The Commission nevertheless took strong notice of the challenges encountered during the recent exercises, and it has factored the lessons learnt into ongoing processes and preparations.
The Commission also noted with regret, however, the persisting tendency towards impunity by some partisans and their supporters in the electoral process. Unless politicians abide at all times by relevant rules and codes of ethics, and also persuade their supporters to do likewise, the Nigerian electoral process would be hindered from attaining to international best standards that INEC is working hard to take it.
Kayode Robert Idowu is Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman