By Lateef Adegbite
Politicians who appear to have used their contact and money to procure Permanent Voters Card, PVCs, from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, officials during the last registration of voters, exercise across the country or use some subterranean means to do so, with the intention to use it to make money during the 2023, general elections are in for trouble.
This is because Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, INEC, who has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari, insistence ‘’to upload the results of the 2023, general elections on its portal to enable Nigerians have a real-time view of the results as they are being collated at the collation centers across the 36 states of the Federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, may have made the the worst mistake. This is because PVCs would be useless in their hands and thouse caught in the act may languish in prison for one year
The INEC Chairman, who had been under intense pressure from several quarters over the last one year, to abandon the use of the Bimodal Voter Accredidation System, BVASA, which was used in the last governorship elections in the south west states of Ekiti and Osun states and had succeeded in blocking all the perceived loopholes discovered for its use in future elections in the country had said that ‘’it has come stay’’.
The INEC, Chief Executive officer, CEO, had made it clear to those who had obtained thousands of PVCs, illegally, with the intention to rig the 2023, general elections to perish such thinking as ‘’there will be no such opportunity to rig the election.
He had said that the Commission, in partnership with all the relevant security agencies, in the country, particular,Usman Alkali Baba, led Nigerian Police Force, NPF, are working round the clock to track the spending of the politicians during this Campaign period and arrest those who may want to bring out their illegally procured PVCs to distribute to party loyalists in other to participate in the election.
With the intensified efforts by the Commission and security agencies to monitor what is happening in the states and the FCT, w ahead of the February 25, 2023, Presidential election, described as a three horse race, which has produced Aswaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state as the Presidential Candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and the Opposition People’s Democratic, PDP, which had produced Atiku Abubakar, a former Nigeian Vice President , as its flag bearers, who are desperate to win the election, may have informed why the Commission and the Force have closed in on the PVCs thieves to create a level playing ground for the 18 political parties Flag bearers.
Only recently, the Police Authorities at the instance of the Commission had arrested two offenders in Sokoto and Kano states, controlled by the Opposition PDP, and APC, respectively.
That much was confirmed by Festus Okoye , INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Infornmation and Voter Education Committee. The first offender of the electoral fraud that was said to been arrested by the Police Authorities, according to Okoye, the INEC, National Commissioner had said in a Statement was one Nasiru Idris, whose identity remained a closely guided secret.
He was said to have also been caught with 101 PVCs and an additional 101 PVCs.The INEC National Commissioner, Chairman Information and Voter’s Committee, who could no hide his feelings had said that for the Sokoto state indigene to be in possession of the 101 PVCs, Contravenes sessions 17 and 45 of the 2022, Electoral Bill , which had been signed into Law by the Katsina state born Nigerian President.
Given the seriousness of the offence, may have informed why the Police Authorities had hastened effort in investigating the suspect to get to the root of the matter. Having pieced together the information needed based on its investigation to charge him to Court may have encouraged the Force to hand over the case file to the Commission which was said to have dragged him to Court in the Caliphate state. The suspect was said to have been tried in a Magistrate Court in Sokoto, the state Capital and sentenced to one year imprisonment.
The Police Authorities was said to have also arrested a man with 367 PVCs, who was said to have been had handed over to INEC, which is currently pursuing the suspect prosecution in the Court. The arrest of the two suspects , in Sokoto and Kano states, respectively, may have emboldened the Commission officials , both at the state and Federal, levels to reiterate that ‘’it will continue to pursue all violators of the 2022 Electoral Act and ensure their diligent prosecution’’.
Okoye, the INEC, spokesperson, may have gladdened the heart of the Leadership of the 18 register Political parties that would participate in the 2023, general elections, when he revealed that a standard procedure has been developed ‘’to make the process as seamless as possible’’.
Worried that in the last couple of weeks, the Force, had arrested some individuals, found to be in illegal possession of PVCs in some states of the Federation, particular, in the north, Where Tinubu, had boasted that that he will win Kano, Katsina, Nigerian President and four other states in the region, may have informed why it has been listed as one of the issues that will be discussed and finalized at the Commission’s retreat in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, from November 28, 2022 to December 2, 2022 involving all the state Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC.
At the end of the retreat, the Commission is expected to release the dates as well as the detailed procedure for the immediate collection of PVCs nationwide. The Commission had declared that 93.5 million Nigerians are eligible to participate in the 2023, general elections. Prof. Yakubu, the INEC, boss had said that after a rigorous cleanup of that data using the Automated Biometric Identification System, ABBIS, over 2.78 million were identified and were removed as ineligible voters.
In spite of the fact that INEC, had registered that number of Nigerians to participate in the 2023, general elections, the Commission had said that an aggregate of 234,037 voters are yet to obtain their PVCs in Ekiti state. The situation may not be different from what is happening in other states of the Federation, including the FCT, where there are millions of unclaimed PVCs.
In Ogun, a south west state controlled by the APC, hoodlums, were said to have set ablaze the office of INEC, IN Abeouta, the state Capital , destroying the Commission sensitive materials in the store , Registration ares officers office, and the Conference room, There indications that thousands of unclaimed PVCs , were destroyed in the APC, controlled state, due to the inferno.
In the south east state of Imo, controlled by APC, the Commission had said that it lost 1,256 PVCs, during the recent registration exercise in the state due to an attack on the Electoral umpire officials at Amakohia , RA02, in Ihitte Uboma LGA, of the state. A video, was said to have even gone viral in the state where a large Consignment of PVCs, were allegedly buried in the compound of a top politician in the state.