Today is the deadline for the collection of the permanent voter cards for this year’s general election. Ahead of the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the commission said yesterday it had received the remaining voter cards meant for Lagos, Ogun, and Plateau states, Thisday reported.
Chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu, said all the outstanding PVCs were received Thursday and had been distributed to the affected states, which were among states that had shortages.
But with respect to the latest date for the collection of the PVCs nationwide, THISDAY learnt at the weekend that there may be a further extension in Lagos, Ogun, and Plateau states to enable registered voters in the states to collect their cards.
As at Tuesday, INEC said 56, 350, 776 of the 68, 833, 476 PVCs meant for this year’s general election – 81.87 per cent of the cards – had been collected by their owners across the country.
Speaking on the conclusion of the PVCs distribution exercise, national publicity secretary of APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said at the weekend that the party was satisfied with the level of distribution ahead of the poll.
But a PDP group, PDP Integrity Vanguard, frowned on what it called INEC’s insistence on the use of PVCs and Smart Card Readers for the election, reiterating the party’s indisposition to the use of the device. In a statement by Senator Aniette Okon and Chief Sergeant Awuse, the group claimed that the resolve to use the electronic voter authentication device was an invitation to chaos and a recipe for anarchy during the elections.
INEC plans to hold a stakeholders meeting with all the political parties, civil society groups, and other stakeholders on Tuesday, in a final discussion before the polls, THISDAY has learnt.
Meanwhile, the Special Task Force on Jos crisis has declared that the Nigerian Army will participate fully in the forthcoming general election. Commander of the taskforce, Major General David Enetie, who disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Jos, said it was the constitutional duty of the military to secure the country at all times, including during elections.
This was as the leadership of APC alleged on Saturday that the PDP federal government plotted to deploy the coercive instruments of state to arrest a national leader of the opposition party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, few days to the election, on trumped up corruption charges. APC told a news conference in Lagos yesterday that a number of its prominent members, especially those perceived as the party’s financiers, had been marked for arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in an apparent attempt to demoralise and emasculate the opposition before the general election. But spokesman of the PDP presidential campaign organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, responded in a release, saying the APC leaders should not be afraid of arrest if they had done nothing requiring arrest.
Mohammed told THISDAY by telephone on Saturday that INEC had achieved a reasonable level of PVC distribution to eligible voters to hold a credible election.
But PDP Integrity Vanguard queried the reliability of the PVC and card reader based on INEC’s recent field testing of the device. It stated that the “latest attempt has manifested itself through the commission’s introduction of incident form into the voter accreditation process as a palliative in a situation where the Smart Card Reader fails to authenticate a prospective voter.”
The group queried, “At what point is accreditation deemed to be complete? In other words, is a person deemed to have been properly accredited if accreditation is done on the basis of an incident form?
“Does the card reader possess the capacity to capture and/or transmit information relating to the use of incident form, e.g. the number of persons accredited by the use of the form vis-a-vis the total number of accredited persons?
“Is the card reader capable of automatically generating a warrant that will become the basis for issuance of the incident form? If the answer to three above is in the negative, how can a nexus be established between the card reader and the incident form?”
Alleging a high failure rate of the card readers in Anambra, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kano, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, and Kebbi during the test run of the device, the group said, “The PDP Integrity Vanguard notes that the above figures are not mere statistics but represent the number of Nigerians who will need to use the incident form in their various polling units. Add to this scenario the fact that INEC allows a maximum of only 10 incident forms per polling unit and the subterfuge undergirding the process becomes apparent. How does the commission intend to deal with the pandemonium that will ensue where more than 200 voters require incident forms in order to cast their ballot?”
INEC had admitted 41 per cent fingerprint failure during the card reader test run, but said it fully achieved the other three cardinal goals of voter authentication that had motivated the introduction of the PVC and card reader.
The JTF commander in Jos told journalists, “The Nigerian Army will come out to play its constitutional role before, during and after the election. Our primary duty is to provide security for the country and the election is not an exception.
“We want to use this opportunity to warn whoever is planning evil over this election to have a change of mind before that day, else we have the might to crush you. We will not condone any form of electoral fraud, if we catch you, you have yourself to blame.”
Enetie spoke after a “show of military power” by the military and paramilitary organisations in Plateau State at the STF headquarters.
APC said at the press conference addressed by Mohammed, “We invited you here today to intimate you with the plan by the Jonathan-led federal government and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to decimate the opposition and gain an undue advantage ahead of the forthcoming general election, due to start next Saturday.
“Without mincing words, we are aware that a red alert has been sent to the EFCC to arrest the national leader of our party, the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on trumped-up charges anytime from now.
“In addition, anyone who is suspected of being a financier of the APC is to be arrested, all in efforts to decapitate the main opposition party, which is undoubtedly cruising to victory in the forthcoming elections.
“And as part of the offensive against the APC in the days ahead, there is a plan to freeze the accounts of companies, individuals and organisations believed to be FINANCING the party, with the ultimate objective of crippling the party so it won’t be able to sustain its activities, like paying its agents on Election Day and other logistics.”
But Fani-Kayode stated in response to the APC allegation, “Why should Tinubu be scared of arrest if he has done nothing wrong? Why should Buhari be scared of EFCC if he is clean? They should stop raising all these false alarms and they should just grow up. We are far too busy and focused on winning an election than on planning any witch-hunt.”
In a related development, Jonathan has said that the coming elections would be used to correct wrongs that had led to defections from the party and bring back the old members. He said this in Kano yesterday at the inauguration of a N2.5 billion flyover named after the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero.
The president said, “We are not exploiting the people of Kano, we are ready to work and add value to these people. You are the people we love so much. So, for the bridge we want to commission, because we had a leader who just left us in this great state, one of our foremost traditional rulers was not known for controversy, he never played with his throne.”
Similarly, speaking at a town hall meeting in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, yesterday, the APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, urged his supporters to protect their votes and, yet, conduct themselves peacefully during the polls. Addressing a meeting with persons with disabilities, he said, “If, by the grave of God, APC wins the elections next week, we will fulfil our election promise to appoint a Federal Ombudsman for people with disabilities to combat discrimination against the disabled. The ombudsman will take care of rehabilitation and employment of disabled persons and enable them to participate in public life among other assignments.”