2023: Why INEC Should Extend PVC Collection Deadline –CSOs

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  • Ask Commission To Rejig Administrative Processes, Correct Lapses

A group of Civil Society Organisations, has called out to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the January 29 deadline set for collection of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs).

The CSOs powered by Justice Development and Peace Centre (JDPC) and Community Life Project/Reclaim Naija lamented that administrative lapses by the electoral commission have dampened the morale of some citizens, putting them at the risk of not exercising their franchise at the 2023 poll which starts in 30 days.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos, Wednesday, Social Activist, Comrade Achike Chude pointed out that findings done at several collection centers across the country revealed that the PVC distribution exercise has been fraught with several logistic and administrative challenges which made it difficult for a critical number of registrants to have access to their PVCs.

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According to their findings, one of the administrative bottlenecks that has discouraged voters from picking up their PVCs is inadequate staffing. The group noted that the under-staffing of the INEC has slowed down the time for distribution of PVC, with many citizens waiting hours and days in some cases to get their voter’s card.

The group also said INEC has failed to supply the PVCs at the time it promised to do so. It added that it observed that in some centres, many cases of “PVCs Not Found”, were rampant, leaving citizens stranded and disillusioned.

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Following these challenges, the CSOs called on INEC to “remedy these administrative lapses by further extending the deadline for PVC collection. The current deadlines were informed by the fact that INEC expected all PVCs to be ready and available for collection at the various centres several weeks before the deadline. Considering that this has not been the case and that INEC has not been able to match the demand for PVCs with timely and effective supply, it is imperative that it extends the deadline.

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“It would be most unfair to expect that those citizens who have made several trips to PVC collection centres without getting their PVCs and those whose PVCs have only just been made available this week would forego their right to their PVCs and vote in the elections simply because they were unable to receive their PVCs before the current deadline. It is not their fault. They must not be made to pay the price for the administrative lapses on the PVC supply side.

“Secondly, we urge INEC to allow proxy collection on behalf of students, pregnant women, the Elderly, and Persons with Disabilities, upon presentation of proper identification by the proxy. This should not be too difficult to execute; after all, Embassies allow the proxy collection of visas.

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“Thirdly, INEC should significantly increase the number of staff attending to registrants at the collection Centres and drastically reduce the waiting time, such that no registrant spends more than 30 minutes to collect his or her PVC. This should significantly increase the number of people served in a day.

“Fourthly, the Commission should publish the list of uncollected PVCs in all the collection centres and on its website to help registrants verify the status of their PVCs and reduce unnecessary trips to collection centres.

“Fifthly, in the interest of fairness and transparency, the Commission should provide effective clarifications on the situation of registrants whose PVCs fall in the “Not Found” category. There is a lot of confusion about it and many of those concerned do not understand what that means for their voting rights. Providing better public enlightenment on this issue will help to dispel misperceptions, suspicions of discrimination and conspiracy theories.

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“The Commission must constantly bear in mind that it is set up to ensure that the conduct of elections is free and fair. It exists to serve the best interests of the electorate. That fairness and a level playing field must be seen and actualised in all phases of the electoral process. It is not fair to give some registrants only a few days to collect their PVCs in the last week of the process when thousands of others had six weeks since December 12, 2022. Neither is it fair to those who made several visits to collection centres and waited long hours in vain because of the slowness of the service. The registrants showed up. It was the Commission that did not supply them with their PVCs before the close of work each day. It is only fair that the Commission take the responsibility for these lapses,” the group added.

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