As 2019 general election draws near, one would ordinarily have thought that Nigerians should increase efforts towards collecting the Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) to effect changes in the governance structure, but the current level of political apathy expressed via the low collection rates of PVCs across most states is rather sad.
A recent statistics released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that out of about 8.3 million uncollected Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) in 2016, only 121,097 PVCs have been collected so far as at 22nd March, 2018 (compared to 230,175 collected in 2017) leaving a total of 7.9 million PVCs uncollected.
Eight of the 36 states of the country contributes more than half (56 per cent) to the 7.9 million uncollected PVCs as at 2018 with five of this eight states being South Western states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Osun. The other three states include Edo, Imo and Rivers states.
A state-by-state breakdown of the figures showed that Lagos state, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria leads in terms of uncollected PVCs with about 1.40 million PVCs – compared to 1.42 million PVCs as at 2016 – lying uncollected at the various INEC offices in the state, representing 17.7% of the total uncollected PVCs nationwide.
This was closely followed by Oyo state with 647,586 uncollected PVCs in March relative to 663,053 uncollected PVCs as at 2016.
In Edo and Ogun states, a total of 12,142 and 7,928 PVCs have been collected so far with a colossal 449,001 and 426,890 respectively yet to be collected though the latter has recorded progress as the total collected PVCs figure for first quarter of 2018 alone (3,979) has exceeded that for the whole of 2017 (3,949).
So far, states that have recorded improvement in terms of PVC collection rates according to calculations by BusinessDay are Anambra (51%), Kogi (14.2%), Ebonyi (14%) and Bayelsa (12%) states. The improvement in PVC collection rates in Anambra state was due to the recently concluded gubernatorial election held last year.
Conversely, states with poor collection rates include Zamfara (0.1%), Taraba (0.4%), Niger (0.6%), Sokoto (0.7%) and Kaduna (0.8%) states.
PVC collection rate is measured as the proportion of total collected PVCs in 2017 and first quarter 2018 to the uncollected PVCs as at 2016.
One reason cited by most people especially those living in Lagos which has the highest number of uncollected PVCs is the level of commitment required by their jobs so much so that they barely had time to go to the nearest centres to get their PVCs.
INEC averred that the important role that Continuous Voters Register (CVR) officials play in the electoral process noting that “the manner in which they discharge their duties will affect the confidence of the citizens in the electoral process and the electoral authority. They are expected to be courteous, polite, helpful at all times, treat all persons equally and with respectful”.
Unfortunately, the unfriendly attitude displayed by some INEC officials is enough to get frustrated with the process of not only collecting PVCs but also registering to be an eligible voter.
There seems to be an information gap between those who are yet to collect their PVCs and INEC itself. Most Nigerians are unaware of the whole electoral process vis-à-vis when and where to pick up their PVCs.
The CVR Principles according to INEC categorically stated that “PVC of those registered in first quarter (Q1) should be ready for collection in third quarter (Q3), and second quarter should be ready in fourth quarter (Q4) etc.” The pertinent question we ought to ask ourselves is: How many Nigerians are aware of this modus operandi and to what extent is INEC complying with this?
Essentially, INEC should step up its game towards curbing this trend by capturing phone numbers and email addresses of registered voters so as to notify them when their PVC is ready and where to pick it up.