The announcement on Monday, 2nd day of February, 2015 in Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, by the Independent National Electoral Commission that it has taken delivery of 68, 833, 476 Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) from its contractors and suppliers is a celebration of monumental failure. Though the announcement is yet to be independently authenticated, what it expressly means is that the total registered voting population for the February Polls, which the Commission said it is 68, 833, 476 have crossed one hurdle by becoming potentially eligible to choose their next President, Governors and Federal and State Lawmakers democratically during the referenced polls having been captured in the INEC’s PVCs data technology. INEC also announced the inclusion of the newly captured or registered voters as well as those affected by the so called “INEC data loss” in its latest PVCs production and delivery.
Despite the referenced announcement, now being “celebrated” in INEC’s quarters as “great achievement” or milestone, the Commission’s attempts to extricate itself of its monumental failures associated with its 2015 Polls’ midwifery remain efforts in futility. Till date, over 26m registered voters are yet to receive their PVCs barely ten days to the all important Polls and four days to the Commission’s PVCs collection deadline, and their hope of getting them dashes as days go by. It is totally unheard of in electoral midwifery of any social clime that voting cards are produced for voters barely ten days to the polls.
How can INEC that released the Nigeria’s 2015 Polls’ timetable in January 2014 and authenticated same on 1st October 2014 belatedly readied all PVCs barely ten days to the Polls? Owing to its arrogance hatched by incompetence and shoddiness, the Commission has refused to offer unreserved apologies to Nigerians particularly the potentially disenfranchised registered voters numbering 30, 059, 085 as of January 2015. As a matter of fact, PVCs not produced and distributed as at December 2014 are in the same category with those readied barely ten days to the Polls. This simply means that the issue of PVCs and their distribution ought to have been concluded in 2014.
Like the botched Polling Units creation and their geopolitical allocation lopsidedness as well as the Northeast IDPs’ controversy, which the Commission was forced by Nigerians of good will and conscience to abandon because of their deeply suspected ethno-religious undertones; the ethno-religiously malicious arrowheads at the Commission have already achieved their aim by lumping more PVCs in their targeted zones (Northwest and Northeast) ahead of time leaving other zones demographically disadvantaged. The eleventh hour production and delivery of PVCs announced by the Commission does not hold water and makes no difference on issues being complained of.
With the calculations of the referenced malicious arrowheads being having succeeded in frustrating millions of registered voters in the South by not making their PVCs available on time or by subjecting them to strenuous procedures including extortion before giving them their PVCs, the affected millions of Southern registered voters will become disenchanted and develop lukewarm attitudes as a result leading to their non participation and nonvoting in the referenced polls.
True to their calculations, this has become the situation in the South to the extent that relevant State Governments and Christian bodies have joined in begging the frustrated and disenchanted registered voters to have a change of heart and come out and locate their PVCs. Yet, a number of those who heeded the call got further disappointed when they were turned back by INEC on the ground that inability to locate their PVCs or names in the voters’ register means that they are double registrants (1, 543, 961) recently deleted by the Commission. In the States of Imo and Enugu, for instance, as low as 682,046 and 738, 933 registered voters respectively have received their PVCs from INEC as at 27th January, 2015. This is out of total registered voters of 1, 672, 666 and 1, 313, 128 respectively. In Anambra State, a total of 562, 534 registered voters have not received their PVCs from INEC till date. These explain why there are now over 25m PVCs holders in the North as against 16.9m in the South; with a whopping difference of over 8m PVCs to the advantage of the North.
The referenced malicious arrowheads at INEC must also have reasoned correctly that with barely ten days to the Polls and four days to the PVCs collection deadline, it will be near impossible to effect the distribution of over 12m remaining PVCs in the South since it took the Commission twenty whole days to distribute only 4m PVCs between 7th January and 27th January 2015. Millions of citizens of voting age in the South have earlier suffered technical or deliberate exclusion in the hands of INEC during continuous registration exercises carried out by the Commission.
Added to the advantage of the calculations of the referenced malicious arrowheads are millions of Nigerians that fled or relocated as well as those still fleeing or relocating from the Northwest and the Northeast zones to the South fearing Islamist Boko Haram and Fulani insurgencies and election related disorders. These include over five million Igbo residents in the North as well as tens of thousands of moderate Northern Muslims and Christians who now reside in the South. These categories of citizens will not vote in the referenced polls because of vote-where-you-register policy and provisions in Nigeria’s body of electoral laws. Most of them abandoned their PVCs in INEC and fled or relocated.
In addition to the foregoing, INEC has adamantly refused to tell Nigerians the circumstances that led to the deletion of 1, 543, 961 registered voters from its National Register of Voters between November/December 2014 and early January 2015; from which it arrived at its present 68, 833, 476. This is because as at October 2014, the total number of its registered voters in Nigeria was 70, 383, 427. The Commission has also refused to give State-by-State breakdown of the deleted figure as well as State-by-State breakdown of its new figure of 68, 833, 476.
All in all, the two zones with controversial circumstances including controversial PVCs figures and allocations are the Northwest and the Northeast zones. That is to say that the credibility of the February Presidential Poll starts and ends in the two zones. Going by extensive research investigations and experiences in our confines as per the forthcoming polls, there is need to subject all the polling units in the two zones under thorough and forensic watch. That is to say that all the existing polling units in the two zones should be formally and independently counted, crosschecked, monitored and protected. All the Palaces of Emirs and District heads, Mosques and houses of top politicians in the two zones should be cordoned off during the said poll and all the results must originate from polling booths known to INEC and security agencies as well as Federal Government of Nigeria.
Most importantly, the high incidence of under-age voting prevalent in the Northwest and the Northeast must extensively be checkmated. It is not enough for INEC to repeatedly assure Nigerians that it will be difficult to rig the referenced polls using PVCs. The major hurdle to anti rigging software in PVCs is evasion of voting accreditation using group violence or threat of violence. The two zones in the North are very notorious when it comes to evasion of voting accreditation, which they do using group violence or threat of violence. Such violence and threat of it are usually directed at INEC’s ad hoc staff and in some cases, against security agencies particularly the Police and the NSCDC during crucial polls like presidential poll.
Once the voting accreditation is successfully evaded and thump printing successfully effected, the vote automatically counts and goes beyond rigging detection! If these seminal recommendations of ours are carried out to the letter in the two zones, the number of total votes cast in the two zones will shock Nigerians when compared with the so called “19.5m PVCs holders” in the two zones (Northwest and Northeast). This is because not up to seven million votes cast will be derived in all the polling units in the two zones. For us at Intersociety, the damage has appeared irreparably done by INEC. Extension of date for PVCs collection and allied patch-patch are cockroach and smokescreen approaches.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program