The All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and lawyers on Sunday lauded the Independent National Electoral Commission for extending the deadline for the collection of permanent voter cards from March 8 to March 22.
The commission, in a terse statement on Sunday by the Chief Press Secretary to its Chairman, Kayode Idowu, said “the latest extension offers the last opportunity for registered persons to collect their PVCs before the March 28 and April 11 general elections.”
“INEC hereby calls on registered persons that are yet to collect their PVCs to use this last opportunity in doing so, in order to participate in the forthcoming general elections,” Idowu added.
The commission had last Wednesday said that it had succeeded in distributing 80.24 per cent of the PVCs to their owners.
The figure indicated that 55,232,874 out of the 68,833,476 registered voters had picked their cards .
Out of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Ogun State is the only state that had yet to reach 50 per cent PVCs collection.
In the state, only 47.27 per cent (864,292) of the 1,829,534 registered voters had picked theirs.
In its reaction to the extension of deadline for the collection of the PVCs, the APC said it was a welcome development. It therefore called on those yet to collect theirs to do so.
“Hopefully this extension will enable those who have been unable to collect their PVCs to do so. We also hope that, it will no longer be possible for people to say they cannot collect their PVCs, to that extent, it is a welcome development, ” the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, told one of our correspondents.
Mohammed’s counterpart in the PDP, Olisa Metuh, said the extension would enable more eligible voters to pick up their cards.
“The extension is good. It will enable more eligible voters pick up their cards,” Metuh told one of our correspondents in Abuja.
Also, some lawyers – Sebastian Hon (SAN), Wahab Shittu and Malachy Ugwummadu – described the extension of the deadline as a good development.
They however called on INEC to use the remaining period before the elections to address the hitches associated with the use of the card readers.
Hon said, “The extension of the period for the collection of the PVC is most commendable. With the extension there should be no excuse for anybody who has refused to collect his or her own PVC.
“I also congratulate INEC for its successful outing on Saturday. There is overwhelming evidence that it was successful except for some few areas where there were hitches. INEC still has time to correct the anomalies. INEC should go ahead to deliver to us the credible election we deserve and desire. Nothing should stop INEC from using the card readers.
“Anything short of the card readers will bring confusion and mar the whole process.
Shittu said that beyond PVC collection and the use of card readers, the March 28 and April 11 already scheduled for the elections should remain sacrosanct.
“The extension of the period for collection of the PVC is a welcome development. It is aimed at affording Nigerians the opportunity of exercising their franchise because the more the number of Nigerians who participate in the exercise the greater the credibility it lend to the election.
“The deployment of the card readers is a positive development. It will help to minimise rigging by large scale. It is something all Nigerians must support.
“But beyond that, what is more critical at this stage is that the dates already fixed for the elections to hold must remain sacrosanct. Nothing should change it again so that Nigeria does not become a laughing stock in the international community.”
Ugwummadu also said that “the decision to extend the period for collection of the PVC is a welcome development.”
He applauded the INEC for the proving that the use of the card readers was acceptable and workable, but urged the commission to address the hitches that surfaced from the test-run .
The lawyer said, “To a large extent, it is a mixed outcome. Concerning the workability of the machine, it is satisfactory. But in terms of the effectual use, it is mixed. It was discovered that it took longer time than what was envisaged in some places.
“INEC still has time to put in place back up for malfunctioning machines, retraining of its men so that they can better handle the machines.”
But another SAN, Joseph Nwobike, who also commended the postponement of the period for the collection of the PVCs, said the card reader test-run ought to have been done about 10 months ago.
He argued that that would have afforded the manufacturers of the card readers enough time to correct some of the defects revealed by the test-run on Saturday.
Nwobike said, “If they had done the test-run about 10 months ago, INEC would have had the opportunity to go back to the manufacturer to correct the anomalies that surfaced yesterday. There would have been another test-run to ascertain the efficiency of the machine. All the hitches encountered yesterday would have been cleared
“Nobody should be disenfranchised so I will advocate the use of both the PVC and the Temporary Voter Card.”
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties has said it still supports the use of the card readers by INEC.
Spokesman for the group, Osita Okechukwu, said, “the mock test of the Magnetic Card Reader, by INEC even if the picture is the only identification matrix; has further emboldened and reinforced our resolve to adopt the device as the best device to avoid mangling and manipulating the electoral process.”
A Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Junaid Mohammed, said the extension of the deadline for PVCs collection would “ give those who have been unable to collect their cards an opportunity to do so.”
On the testing of the card readers, Mohammed said, “It generally went well here in Kano. There were no major issues that could not be handled.”