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EDITORIAL

INEC’s silence on discovery of discarded PVCs, worrisome

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AHEAD of the commencement of campaigns for 2023 general elections, there is a worrisome development in the current discovery of chunks of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) discarded on the streets or dumped in hide-away places across country, particularly the southern parts of Nigeria.

  RECENTLY, there has been a rash of such baffling incidents. Sadly, there has not been an explanation for them.

VIDEOS showing the discovery of thousands of PVCs by some Nigerians emerged on social media on Thursday, July 14, 2022.The videos, which emerged on Twitter also showed some PVCs lying in some unidentified offices.

  IN ONE of the viral videos, some Nigerians were seen gathered around a cache of  PVCs said to have been dug out of an underground sewage.

  “THESE are people’s original PVCs hidden underground to stop them from voting,” a voice in the video screamed.

  THERE were also recent reports of such cases in Lagos, Rivers and Abia States, among others.

  REACTING to one of the reports in a statement, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said that the  body’s attention has been drawn to “videos trending online that PVCs were allegedly buried underground in some locations, “including the compound of a high-profile person.” Thereafter, nothing else has been heard from the commission on the matter.

  THE questions begging for answers following the development are; Who is behind it? For what purpose? 

  DESPITE INEC’s promise of not taking the matter  lightly and that they have commenced immediate investigation, the notion, in some sections of Nigeria is  that INEC’s hands may not be clean in it as no individual or group outside INEC’s staff is expected to have access to the PVCs. Yet, others argue that the PVCs may have been stolen by gunmen, who attacked the commission’s offices in the regions, even as others believe it is the handiwork of politicians or political party agents  in connivance with some INEC officials in order to disenfranchise some groups of persons or voters in a particular zone.

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  WHATEVER is the case, these developments raise as much concern as they raise fear of yet to be confirmed forces likely plotting to undermine the election before it holds. Most worrisome is the fact that whether it is individuals or political party agents playing  games, arguably, it would not have been successful without the connivance of INEC official(s).

Besides, inasmuch as we agree that there have been attacks on some INEC offices over the years, INEC never informed Nigerians of any missing PVCs in their possessions across country after such attacks. Again, assuming the PVCs were actually stolen, what efforts have INEC made to replace the stolen PVCs or what alternative means are they planning to use to identify  affected potential voters who have successfully concluded registrations and awaiting to collect their PVCs or will they be completely disenfranchised during the general elections for no fault of theirs?

  NATIONAL Light believes that INEC owe Nigerians a lot of explanations in this matter because from any angle one decides to look at the issue, INEC cannot be exonerated from the blame. The promise from INEC to investigate the matter is not just enough.

After all, it is over a month they disclosed they had commenced investigation, assuring that anyone found culpable in the scheme will be disclosed and brought to book and nothing has been heard of the outcome of the investigations to date.

  THERE is no doubt that whoever is behind this disgraceful and embarrassing scheme intends to disenfranchise selected Nigerians using INEC. Therefore, if INEC does not do something urgently to explain or unveil their findings and possible solutions to Nigerians, it will cause disenchantment in the 2023 general election, even as a restive situation may erupt after the polls among people who are only  trying currently,  to develop confidence in the electoral umpire believing that they will vote and their votes will  count in deciding the ultimate winners in the exercise.

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  ALTHOUGH INEC made it clear in their reaction to the development on July 14,  that “as far as the record of the commission is concerned, PVCs have been printed for all valid registrants in Nigeria up to 14th January 2022 and delivered to all the states of the federation for collection by voters”, National Light hereby call on INEC  to work out clear ways to redeem the image of the agency on this matter with keenness for integrity in  the body’s image and credibility of the 2023 general elections.

The agency, as an arbiter, should think out modalities to ensure that all eligible voters who have complete record of registration for the PVC  in their data base have the identikits  to present during the general elections. This is because every eligible Nigerian who registered as a voter is entitled to his/her PVC and those affected by the ugly development cannot be disenfranchised for no fault of theirs.

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