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Group Asks INEC To Distribute PVCs At Polling Booths On Election Day

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Emeka Ugwu-Oju

A non-governmental organisation, Nigeria & Entrepreneurship: Summit & Honours (NESH), has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to consider distributing the cards at the polling booths on election day.

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This, the group said, will help mitigate several problems many problems dogging the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs),

The position of NESH was made known to TheNiche by the founder of the not-for-profit organisation, Mr Emeka Ugwu-Oju, in an interview with the Niche.

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According to Ugwu-Oju said as good as the the decision of INEC to extend PVC collection may be, it may not be the ultimate solution to the PVC collection crisis.

Ugwu-Oju, who acknowledged that INEC successfully executed the more tasking job of voter registration, however, regretted the umpire’s inability to carry out the simpler task of PVC distribution.

“It is so unfortunate that maybe INEC didn’t think through the process of distributing the PVCs,” he said.

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“The real work was really in terms of registering whereby somebody has to collect your fingerprints, facials and they have to have an equipment to be able to do that.

“Now, for collection of PVCs, you don’t need any equipment. You have just printed a bunch of cards and then people should come and collect them.

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“The cards have people’s names and pictures, so you can see the person and identify him or her as the same person whose picture is on the card or ask the person to produce the slip or whatever he or she was given at the point of registration.”

Ugwu-Oju said the problems associated with the collection of PVCs stem from INEC’s inability to decentralise the process.

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“When people have to go to their local government headquarters to collect their PVCs, there will be a crowd. And, of course, when there is a crowd, some people might want to take advantage of that. We know what happens in such circumstances, the process becomes cumbersome.”

He said the problem could be solved in two ways.

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“The first is before the election on February 25. Instead of going to the local governments, INEC should ensure that on a non-working day, the cards are brought to each polling booth.

“That could even help people locate their polling booths when they come to collect their PVCs. I don’t think there is any polling booth that has more than 500 people and we know that a substantial number already have their cards.

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“So, we might be talking about each polling booth having a 100 or 200 PVCs that people are yet to collect. It won’t take an hour for people to collect their cards unless the person doesn’t want to collect.”

Ugwu-Oju said fears that decentralising the process entails extra cost are unfounded.

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“INEC might say there are some cost elements and we can really cost it and know whether the opportunity cost of losing so much man hours and even not collecting the PVCs is greater than ensuring that some people are paid for an hour or two and prospective voters know when to go and collect their PVCs.

“In any case, based on what I see, INEC doesn’t even have to pay for that. State governments are declaring work free days and if we are looking at our productivity, a fraction of what they are losing on those work free days will pay for the stipends of people who will be needed to go to the polling booths to distribute the cards.”

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But Ugwu-Oju says as seamless as the first option is, there is even a second option which he considers the best – the option of voters who are yet to pick their PVCs collecting it at the polling booths on election days.

“INEC should ensure that PVCs that have not been collected are brought to the polling booths on the day of election and voters who are supposed to vote in that polling booth will come, pick their cards and vote without any hassle. It is very efficient, cost effective and also easily verifiable,” he said.

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“There will be no hassles at all. My suggestion to INEC, I mean for now, they are doing something up until January 29, from that date to the election day, all the uncollected PVCs should be documented for each polling booth and there is a verifiable record, which is available to the public that this is what is available that has not been collected.

“Of course, if someone doesn’t want to vote, even if he has his card, he wouldn’t come out. But what shouldn’t be allowed is someone wanting to vote but doesn’t do so because he cannot get his PVC because of these bottlenecks which everybody is crying about and which should have been avoided if we had decentralised it to every polling booth.”

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