The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has admitted its failure in the distribution of permanent voter’s cards (PVCs) in different parts of the country.
It apologised to the Lagos State Government for the irregular process.
The electoral umpire then pledged to resolve all issues of PVCs in the state and other states of the federation before December 15 with a view to conducting free and fair general election starting from February 2015.
The commission’s high-powered team led by a National Commissioner, Ambassador Lawrence Nwurukwu, expressed regrets over the protracted anomalies recorded in the distribution of PVCs during a close-door meeting with Governor Babatunde Fashola in Lagos House, Ikeja on Tuesday.
The INEC team, which visited the governor, comprised the state Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos, Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, the Chief Press Secretary to the chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, Director of ICT, Mr. Chudi Nwafor and Administrative Secretary in Lagos office, Mr Isaac Itegboje.
But Nwurukwu conveyed INEC’s regrets to the state government at the meeting, noting that the commission was really taken aback and worried that Fashola and several registered voters could not obtain their PVCs on demand in the state.
He, therefore, apologised to the affected registered voters for failing to meet their expectation and observed that Lagos “is not the first place where a similar problem would occur, but has happened in several other places.”
He urged Fashola and other affected registered voters “to go and re- register between December 3 and 8, thereby promising that before the middle of December, the problem “will be resolved. INEC will make necessary amends.”
Nwafor, the commission’s ICT director, provided explanation for shortcoming experienced in the distribution of PVCs in the state, noting that it was not deliberate as some people thought in some parts of the country.
The ICT director attributed the loss of some of the data captured to the loss of fingerprints of the captured voters during the upgrading process, which he said, was a technical challenge that was not foreseen.
But the governor expressed strong views about INEC’s performance, saying the failed distribution of PVCs “is not about him personally. Rather it is about ensuring that every registered voter in Lagos gets their PVC.”
According to him, on a daily basis, he receives complaints from the residents of Lagos about the shortcomings of INEC on the exercise. Until he gets his PVC and other registered voters get theirs, INEC has not done its job.
He explained the centrality of voter’s cards to realising citizens’ dreams and aspiration, thereby attributing his protest to the quest for a credible and transparent electoral process that would reflect popular will.
He said: “Let me make it clear that this is not personal and it is about our country.
The right of citizens, it is about our image as a people and it is about our prosperity. Whether we get electricity, whether we get water, whether we are able to be secured, whether our children have a future depends on what government does.”
The governor explained that there was in the public domain a persisting fear about the credibility of the electoral process which “is not being helped by the tardiness of INEC thus far. The state government will not be formed unless elections are held. It is only credible elections that respond to the will of the people.
“The worry out there is that people still need to be persuaded that their votes will count. So whether you like it or not or whether INEC likes it or not, it is a credibility issue about electoral processes and we must therefore act all the time to reinforce that credibility rather than diminish it.”
He said the team could explain what actually went wrong to him, though said it was difficult “to determine how many people they make similar explanations to because there are thousands and millions of them that experienced what I experienced as the governor.
“Lagos State has been ready for the exercise since July when INEC first indicated that it was ready but has kept shifting the goal post. You moved it to August, then you moved it to September, then November and you broke it into two and we on our part have continued to adjust and adapt and we have spent money getting the information across and moving people to provide support.”
Fashola said the feedback that the state government “is getting across the state from the exercise is that there is no power. The generator has broken down or that there is no fuel and that INEC is doing twice what it should have done once.
“When we shut down Lagos for one day in order to allow people to go out and vote, mind you, this is 35 percent of the GDP of Nigeria and I hope that we all understand what that means? So when we do that and we still get this kind of service, we ask ourselves: Are you for real?”
He said he would continue to fulfil his responsibility as a political leader by encouraging people to continue the registration process, saying there was the need for those responsible to clarify to him as a person who had been voting since he turned 20 while he must subject himself to a fresh round of data collection.
He added that he had been voting since he turned 20, insisting that his name “is somewhere in the INEC system. It is not his job to find his name but the job of the INEC officials to find the data. You gave me a temporary voters’ card, where did you print it from? Go and print my permanent voters’ card from there.”