By Nnanke Harry Willie
It is now apparent that some elements within the political space are hell-bent on disenfranchising sections of Nigerians from exercising their voting rights in the forthcoming general elections with sustained disinformation campaigns. This is especially targeted at Nigerians that have been duly registered by INEC and are thus entitled to their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC).
The problem is that a good number of people have been unable to collect their PVCs in certain locations for various reasons despite spirited attempts on their part. So when they receive the disinformation that PVC is not required to vote it discourages them from trying harder.
On November 29, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) upon inquiries from BRANDPOWER condemned attempts by some misguided elements to confuse Nigerians and discourage voters from coming out to collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).
INEC said that it was a disingenuous attempt to disenfranchise millions of prospective voters. Shockingly, the attempt to disenfranchise is still on.
On Thursday, January 26, 2023, barely 3 days to the deadline for collection of PVCs, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu once again had to come out to explain that no one will be allowed to vote in the general elections without a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) as this is in line with the stipulations of the Electoral Act.
According to Yakubu, “There is a very disturbing trend which is the misinformation and disinformation on technological deployments by the commission in the social media space and some media houses picking up news bulletins on social media platforms to discuss on their morning shows and political programmes without reaching out to the commission for its stance on such issues.
“One such is the recent viral assumption that PVC is not required to vote on election day. Let me reiterate the commission’s stance that Section 47 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 clearly states that;
“A person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a presiding officer for accreditation at the polling unit in the constituency in which his name is registered.
“Therefore, the commission is legally bound to only accept the accreditation of a voter on presentation of a valid voter’s card.
Also debunking the wave of disinformation and misinformation in November 2022, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC Chairman referred Brandpowerng to the same Section 47(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 which reads that: “ A person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a Presiding Officer for accreditation at the polling unit in the constituency in which his name is registered”.
INEC has decried what he termed a combination of disinformation and misinformation being pushed out by familiar forces at regular intervals to confuse Nigerians as this could be a ploy to discourage people from collecting their PVCs because the authors know that without it, you cannot vote.
INEC’s position is however firmly hinged on the provision of the Electoral law which makes it mandatory that voters must present their PVCs in order to be processed and allowed to vote. It, therefore, means that “No PVC, No Voting”.
Registered voters are thus enjoined to ensure that they collect their voters’ cards and come out en masse to vote during the 2023 elections.
INEC Chairman has further urged “media houses and journalists to always reach out to the commission to avoid spreading and misinformation and disinformation obtained from viral social media posts.’
He said that the commission on its part had an active social media presence and would continue to do its best to educate Nigerians and debunk such type of misinformation.
He reiterated that there is no provision in the Electoral Act 2022 that gave the commission the option to register voters to vote using the digits on the Voter Identification Number (VIN).
He further assured Nigerians gave that the Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS) was secured and that the commission had been repelling attacks from hackers.
He said that the BVAS technology would be deployed to actualize a credible, fair, and hitch-free general election.
“As with every aspect of our national lives, adopting technologies into the electoral process is always met with challenges.
“One major challenge was the lack of a clear-cut legal framework supporting the deployment of technology by the commission especially in the accreditation of voters and the voting process.
“The deployment of the Smart Card Readers in 2015 and its use was faced with various challenges such as resistance to using in some isolated instances, snatching and destruction of devices, attempts to manipulate the use of the devices, and most prominently various judicial pronouncements on the legality of its use.”
INEC should however pay special attention to zones and locations where prospective voters have been allegedly denied access to their PVCs especially as the deadline for collection draws near.
It would be very unfortunate for any Nigerian to be disenfranchised in the 2023 election simply for reasons outside their control, they were unable to collect their PVCs even after repeated visits to their respective wards.
INEC should, however, tighten its monitoring mechanism to ensure the staff at zonal and ward levels are not unwittingly truncating the exercise due to tardiness, corruption or partisanship. Visuals and videos of Nigerians lamenting their inability to collect their PVCs after hours, even days of visiting their respective offices have become too many to ignore. INEC owes it a duty to make their systems work efficiently and ensure that no Nigerian is disenfranchised from voting in the 2023 general elections.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to collect your PVC
- Whether as a new or existing registered voter, you are to visit the state where you registered.
- Take the slip given to you during voter registration along.
- Locate the INEC office that was specified in the slip within your local government area (LGA).
- When you get to the INEC collection centre, newly registered voters are to present the slip given to them to the officials. At the same time, voters who also applied to change their voting location are required to submit their slips.
- Meanwhile registered voters with temporary voter’s cards are advised to go to the INEC office in the LGA to exchange their temporary voter’s card for a permanent voters card.
- Also, INEC has further simplified the collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards at the ward level. Registered voters can now send a text message containing their information to any of the two dedicated numbers below to locate their collection points.