Millions of Nigerians may be disenfranchised if the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not live up to its bidding. Few days before the commencement of polls, millions of Nigeria are yet to secure their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and this has cast doubts in the minds of Nigerians whether INEC's persistent assurances of credible polls are feasible.
Availability of voters card is the basic step that the commission should take to allay the fears of the public that the upcoming polls may go the way of preceding polls in the country that is characterised by massive rigging and other electoral malpractices.
The exercise was done sometime in 2017, but the commission in its characteristic manner is seriously found wanting almost two years after.
The complaints are pouring in torrents as Nigerians relive their ordeals in the hands of INEC. Some voters who were registered at the nascent period of the exercise are yet to access their cards despite numerous visits to the various local government offices of INEC, which are far flung from the people.
The commission's local government offices were a Mecca of sort recently for voters who thronged those offices on daily basis to secure the cards but to no avail. It was one flimsy excuse or the other. The excuses ranged from accusations of those in charge of particular wards who were not on seat to the excuse that PVCs covering some periods were not printed, even at the last minute.
It took intensive pressure for INEC to move the registration closer to the people by moving from the local government headquarters to the wards. This was as a result of repeated calls after voters were unable to travel long distances to access their local government headquarters. The fact that majority of the citizenry in the developing world live in rural communities than urban centres could have been adequately captured in the commission's arrangement to ensure success of the exercise. More worrisome is that even when the registration centres were decentralised, the exercise was carried in such shoddy manner that increased the doubts in the minds of Nigerians whether INEC will surmount the more technical and complex functions that characterise the polls including capturing voters through the card reading process.
Besides, the commission has demonstrated huge communication deficiency. Imagine on the night of the February 8 deadline for PVC collection, Nigerians were still receiving messages via SMS urging them to go and collect their PVC. One would have expected the commission to adopt the traditional modes of communication more since their target audience are highly concentrated in rural communities.
INEC should remedy its image by addressing the PVC issue. This will ensure that only eligible voter are availed their voters card and the right to vote. If not, the allegations levelled against the commission of registering under age Nigerians and channeling the PVCs to unauthorised individuals will stick.
By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
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