The distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to eligible voters by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, took off at a low pace in the South East amid rising insecurity in the region.
Daily Trust reports that the exercise which started on Monday nationwide is coming days after the region has witnessed a wave of attacks by suspected members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, enforcing the five-day sit-at-home order issued by the self-styled spokesperson of the outlawed group, Simon Ekpa. The exercise started on Tuesday in most states in the region.
It was observed that while the distribution of PVCs is yet to start in some local government areas of Imo State, other areas witnessed low turnout.
Our correspondent reported that the INEC office at Amaigbo, headquarters of Nwangele Local Government Area, was under lock and key.
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No INEC official was around, but an official of the magistrates’ court opposite the office told our correspondent that officials of the commission have been telling registrants to come back next Tuesday.
INEC’s Public Relations Officer in the state, Dr Chinenye Chijioke-Osuji, promised to look into why the office was under lock and key.
However, at Owerri Municipal, INEC officials were idle as only few people turned up to collect their PVCs.
Our correspondent gathered that most residents of rural communities were afraid to go to INEC offices because of Monday’s attack on the Owerri head office of the commission.
INEC state headquarters in Owerri, Imo State capital, was attacked by unknown gunmen at about 3a.m. on Monday, leading to the burning of part of the building occupied by the Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) Department and one official utility vehicle (a Toyota Hilux pickup van). However, INEC maintained that no critical election material was destroyed in the attack.
“No critical election materials were destroyed. There were also no casualties involving staff of the commission,” INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said.
The attack was the third on the commission’s facilities in Imo in less than two weeks, following the earlier attacks on its Orlu LGA office on Dec. 1 and Oru West LGA office on Dec. 4.
Our correspondent who visited Awka North and Awka South local government areas observed low turnout of prospective voters.
Meanwhile, INEC said a total of 132, 626 PVCs belonging to registered voters across the 21 local government areas are yet to be collected.
This was disclosed by the state Resident Electoral Commission (REC) of the commission, Dr (Mrs) Elizabeth Agwu, during a consultative meeting with stakeholders in Awka, Anambra State capital.
She gave the details of areas of uncollected PVCs in each of the 21 LGAs as follows: Ogbaru with the highest number of unclaimed PVCs of 16,755, Idemili-North 16,256; Aguata 12,675; Onitsha South 12,274; Onitsha North 9,990; Nnewi North 8,700; Anambra East 7,717; Oyi 7,582 and Njikoka 7,009.
Other are Orumba South 6,566; Awka- South 4,539; Ihiala 4,058; Ekwusigo 3,350; Orumba North 2,393; Nnewi South 1,841 and Awka North 1,543 while Anaocha has the least with 885 unclaimed PVCs.
It was observed that some residents defied the threat of a sit-at-home order to pick up their PVCs.
“We must vote the bad ones out now. Either sit at home or no sit at home, we must come out to do the right thing,” Miss Nnoruka Obike said.
However, the exercise recorded an impressive turnout at the commission’s office in Umuahia North Local Government Area (LGA).
A cross-section of the people who collected theirs lauded INEC for working according to its time table.
Those who registered earlier as well as others that applied for transfer got theirs. However, those who registered late were advised to wait for their cards to be ready.
A prospective voter, Mr Uche Okoro, said: “They asked me to come back later in the week because mine was not ready.
“The exercise is okay but INEC needs more hands to quicken the distribution process.”
Also, Mrs Anayochi Madubuike said: “It was a bit difficult for me and others that came with me.
“But in all, we thank God that we got ours eventually.”
An official of the commission, who pleaded anonymity, said INEC made adequate preparations for a seamless exercise.
The official said: “We have 12 collection points for the 12 wards in this LGA and people are coming up in their numbers.
“For now, we are only attending to those who applied for transfer; not fresh registration.
“So, when they come, we explain to them but some of them are not happy about the development.
“We assured them that everybody will get their PVCs and I’m very optimistic that other PVCs will be here before Friday.”
The commission’s Public Relations Officer in Abia, Mr Bamidele Oyetunji, opined that the commission was poised to ensure that everybody that registered or applied for transfer got their PVCs.
Oyetunji said: “As I’m talking to you now, we are expecting another consignment of PVCs from Abuja.
“They should cooperate with us.
“We are just beginning and we will do the needful because it’s their right, it’s their property.”
He advised the people to go for their PVCs at INEC offices in their LGAs where they hoped to vote during the polls.
Meanwhile, a political analyst, Fabian Anayo, urged the people not to wait till the last day before coming to collect their PVCs.
He urged the government and other stakeholders to address the security challenges in the region so that the people can participate in the 2023 elections.
“The 2023 election is important but I am afraid that if the government fails to tame the rising insecurity, people will lose hope in the government and not come out to vote. According to INEC, there are 930,000 PVCs ready for collection by new registrants in the region; if you add that to the 10.9 million registered voters, more than 11m Nigerians will be denied opportunity to exercise their franchise if this insecurity persists,” he said.
From Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri) & Titus Eleweke (Awka)