In spite of the claims by the electoral umpire, INEC, that it has recorded complete success in the distribution of the Permanent Voters cards (PVCs) in the three volatile north-eastern states in Nigeria, the case is different. Kareem Haruna Maiduguri and Mohammed Isma’l, Yola write
Against the claims of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it has achieved close to hundred percent in the contentious distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC), especially in the volatile northeast Nigerian states, findings by LEADERSHIP Sunday recently have picked holes in such claims.
In Borno and Yobe states, where the INEC said it has achieved between 70 to 80 percent of the entire distribution of PVCs, hundreds of prospective voters still lay claim to the fact that they have not been issued their PVCs. In some cases, officials of INEC, who are taking part in the distribution of the PVC, had admitted that many of the cards still lay in their custody unclaimed.
In the two states, there also were disturbing cases of either theft of PVCs or cases of some persons collecting them on behalf of others without due authorisation.
When LEADERSHIP Sunday conducted a check around Maiduguri the Borno State capital where for now, about 65 percent of the state’s voters are not likely to cast their votes due to the influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs), it was discovered that INEC may have exaggerated its claims because thousands of voters are still lamenting the ugly tales of not being told when their cards would be made available to them.
One thing that was very instructive about the lack of PVCs in Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) was the case of Maisandari ward which is unarguably one of the largest in Nigeria. Those who know the state very well would attest to the fact that Maisandari ward, which is larger than some local government areas in the state, has been the decider of most elections in the state.
Our reporter was informed by various aggrieved would-be voters in this massive electoral ward that more than half of them have not obtained their PVCs.
Abba Shehu, a private security officer and resident of Maisandari alleged that out of the about 140 polling units that made up the ward, only about nine units had some of their PVCs brought to them.
“There is anger in Maisandari and if care is not taken, no voting will take place here if INEC fails to provide us with our PVCs”, said Shehu, who revealed that voters are already mobilising themselves for a mass protest over the problem.
“I am from Maisandari ward and my polling unit is the Lagos House polling unit, and I can tell you that no single person in this unit has collected his PVC; in fact no single INEC official has come to tell us when it will come; the only thing we kept hearing if some of us go to their office, is that they would soon arrive Maiduguri from Abuja. We will not take the laws into our hands, but we will make sure we go to court and stop any process that threatens to disenfranchise us. We cannot sit down and just watch being denied opportunity to elect those whom we want to represent us”.
Yahaya Garba, an automobile mechanic, who said he had registered at Lawan Jidda polling unit in Ngomari street of Maisandari ward, had also decried not being given his PVC after days of visit to the polling unit.
“All of us that have registered at Lawan Jidda polling centre are yet to be given our PVCs; each time we go to the Bulama’s house to enquire, no one tells you why ours are not provided, but we kept hearing news in the media that the PVC have been brought and made available. We hope some one somewhere is not playing pranks with our cards”, he said.
Mallam Muhammed Abbas Gava, an official of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, and one of the local coordinators for the collection of PVCs in Moduganari street under Maisandari ward also confirmed to LEADERSHIP Sunday saying: “Out of the over 100 polling units that exists in our Ward, only nine (9) units have so far received their PVC. My unit name is Bulama Bukar and none of us have gotten anything; we really don’t know what is going on”.
Gava also confirmed that, “Even in Shuwari/Moduganari, which is made up of 25 polling units, only one unit got theirs, which is Moduganari maternity clinic unit; all the remaining 24 units are yet to take delivery of their PVCs”.
A local fish trader, Idi Idrissa, of Bolori- Ward in Maiduguri said though he had obtained his PVC when the distribution commenced in December last year, most of those who didn’t get theirs then are still waiting upon INEC.
“The first and last time we saw INEC officials coming to distribute PVCs to us was when the exercise commenced in December last year; then, I and some few registered voters in Bulama Burtella polling unit under Bolori-2 were able to struggle to get ours; and when the cards got finished, all those who didn’t get theirs have not been told when theirs would be brought to them. The situation has since been a source of worry to most of us”, said Idrissa.
Most of the prospective registered voters in Maisandari have began to doubt the claims of INEC that it has distributed over 80 percent of the PVC requirement for the state. Some of the residents are wondering how that could be achieved within a very short time and under the circumstances in which the state finds its self presently.
Many of them have argued that it couldn’t have been possible to accept the figure being peddled by INEC on the distribution of the PVCs. According to them, the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State had claimed well over 2000 people. And on the average, most of those that may have been killed are of the voting age; and if PVCs were to be distributed, most of those that got killed may never come up to collect any card from INEC; so it means hundreds of such cards belonging to those that have died as a result of the insurgency should be at the custody of the INEC. And if INEC insists such PVCs belonging to those that had died are no longer in their custody, citizens would want to be informed on who came to collect them posthumously.
“Besides that, we know thousands of people have been forced to flee Maiduguri and other parts of Borno State due to the ongoing Boko Haram conflict; such persons would not come back to collect their PVCs; so how did INEC come about its percentage figure?”, asked a Muhammed Uba, a resident of Maiduguri.
It could be recalled that last week, INEC in the state had, upon several protests by concerned residents, who were worried that they could be disenfranchised by not having their PVCs, promised that it was expecting some PVCs any time soon.
The public affairs officer of INEC in Borno, Mr Tommy Magbuin, was quoted in the media saying, “It is true that we have not been able to distribute PVCs to some units in the state; this is mainly due to non arrival of the cards from Abuja. As I speak to you now, our drivers are already waiting in Abuja to collect the PVCs for onwards delivery to Borno”, he stated.
As at last week, he said Borno State INEC was expecting about 550, 230 PVCs from Abuja. Out of this 220, 906 are for voters who registered in 2011, while the balance is for those captured during the Continos Voters Registration (CVR).
The INEC spokesman gave assurances that by last week all registered voters will receive their PVCs, “But his assurances seemed to have failed”, said a source.
While prospective voters in Borno State continued to lament over non-provision of PVCs to them, the case seemed different in Yobe State, where registered voters, who leveraged on the two day public holiday declared by the state government for obtaining their PVCs, were being told at the polling units that some persons had collected on their behalf.
A resident of Damaturu, the state capital, Musa Umar, said: “We are being faced with reported cases of PVC theft by suspected politicians who would turn up at various polling units with claims that some of their friends and relatives had asked them to collect their PVCs in proxy. And the normal procedure is that the issuing officer would ask the representative to put down his or her phone number, should the need to call him or her arises. But many cases have been reported when real owners turned up and such phone numbers that were given never go through.
“The issue is so prevalent now because some people are leveraging on the fact that many people had fled the state or may have even died one way or the other, so they would come up with arguments that they would want to collect it for them even without tendering a copy of their temporary voters card (TVC).
Adamawa State appeared to be the only state amongst the three volatile states of the north-east where the issue of distributing the PVC seemed a little bit mild as records provided by INEC indicated that 79 percent PVCs have so far been distributed across the 21 local government areas of the state.
A document which shows the distribution of PVC’s by INEC in the state indicated that out of the 1,529,636 registered voters in the state, 1,208,999 have so far collected their PVC’s.
The distribution shows that the insurgency-ravaged local governments of Madagali and Michika whose inhabitants are mainly taken refuge in Yola have recorded high collection of PVC’s. It indicated that Madagali and Michika IDP’s, whose voting centres have been designated in Yola, have collected 86 and 80 percentages respectively.
Similarly, other local governments that were affected by the insurgency have recorded high collection of PVC’s. The chart indicate; Gombi 92 percent, Hong, 85 percent, Maiha 72 percent, Mubi South 57 percent, with Mubi North recording the lowest collection of 47 percent.
The distribution of the PVC’s across the state indicated that Yola South recorded 79 percent, Yola North 72 percent, Toungo 89 percent, Song 91 percent, Shelleng 86 percent, Mayo Belwa 89 percent, Lamurde 88 percent, Jada 86 percent, Guyuk 87 percent, Girei 82 perent Ganye 80 percent, Fufore 80 percent and Demsa 86 percent collection of PVC’s.
Although some people interviewed in the state said they were yet to collect their PVC’s as a result of some hitches, many prospective voters in the state have, however, said they have collected theirs and are waiting for the polling date.