The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has implored the citizenry to arm themselves with their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in order to ensure that they can determine the quality of leaders that will rule over them. Rising from a one day citizen engagement forum organised in Lagos by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has implored the citizenry to arm themselves with their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in order to ensure that they can determine the quality of leaders that will rule over them.
Rising from a one day citizen engagement forum organised in Lagos by the International Press Centre (IPC) with support from ACTION AID Nigeria and the Department for International Development (DFID), INEC says it has embarked on the Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) exercise to give ample opportunity to the citizenry to perform their civic responsibility.
“This is an opportunity for those who missed out in previous exercise to do so. I want to assure you that INEC recognises you as stakeholders”, says INEC Resident Commissioner for Lagos State, Mr Sam Olumekun.
Represented by Mrs Seye Soriyan, head of ICT, the INEC Resident Commissioner explains that the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise is to take care of those who had just attained 18 years, those who have changed their addresses and those with defaced Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), noting that those already registered without PVCs should ensure that they pick them up from the stack of unclaimed PVCs at the INEC office at the local governments.
“There are lots of PVCs in the local government offices yet to be collected. You have to ensure you check, fill in the details, if we have you in our data base, your PVC will be given to you, If we cannot vote, because we did not do the right thing, we should not complain and blame INEC”, he quips.
Olumekun says INEC also insists on the inclusion of the different segments of the people. “We always have constant dialogue with the political parties. We also want to ensure that different people in our society are carried along in the performance of their civic duty”.
Also stressing the need for the citizenry to get their PVCs, former INEC Resident Commissioner for Ondo and Lagos states, Mr Akin Orebiyi says “Our voters’ card is our power. The earlier we have that power, the better. It’s not enough to criticize our leaders; we must also do that with our votes. If you make the right choices, your lives will be better. But if you make the wrong choices, you’ll live with it.
“It’s important that we all exercise our civic duty. Let’s look for the right candidates that will make life better for all of us. If the country is not at peace, we can’t enjoy ourselves. It’s not by sending hate speeches to one another on social media”, he says.
Recalling his experience in Ondo state where he once served as INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Orebiyi says, “When you are mobilising the people, don’t be too formal. Try and come to the level of those you are mobilising. It’s important that we reach the grassroots people in their language to ensure that they come out massively. We usually go to the field singing lots of Yoruba folk songs and dancing to attract the people”
The Lagos state director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Waheed Ishola who also graced the forum says citizens who do not participate in exercising their civic duty have lost their “rights to complain”, stressing that “We need to get our PVCs in order to participate in the electoral process”.
Alluding to complaints by some that they were disenfranchised in 2015, the CVR he says provides them with another opportunity to get their PVCs.
“For those who have just attained 18 and those who were not around during the previous exercise, it is time to get them registered. You see thousands at campaign grounds and fewer people coming to vote. It’s important we changed that”.
“We all need to ensure that we do the right thing and move the country on the right path. We need to change our country from a negative to a positive path”, Ishola says.
The NOA director, however, calls for more enlightenment programme by INEC and the government in order to galvanize more people to partake in the on-going exercise.
On the demand for new polling units to take care of areas that are far away from the present locations, Orebiyi advised that what was plausible is the demand for more voting centres which is easier for INEC to respond to.
“INEC is a bit mindful about creating new polling units which is a function of the population and a bit more complex. This is a touchy issue in Nigeria. But if we have polling centres with more than 500 people, INEC can create additional voting points. The 12,000 polling units in the country should be able to take care of the different areas of the country”.
Asked about the registration and voting of minors in some parts of the country, he says it is part of the desperation by the political actors to outwit each other. “It’s desperation that’s making them push those who are not eligible to go and register. We need to prevent people who are not eligible to register. We all have to be alert to ensure that whosoever is not qualified to vote should not be allowed to vote”, he says.
“INEC does not conduct election alone. If there are things that are not right, let’s get up and stand against it. INEC benefitted immensely from the campaign by civil society groups in 2015. If that’s an issue that we need to stand up against, let’s do that”.
Attended by about 120 persons consisting of representatives of women, youth, persons living with disabilities (PWDs), faith-based, traditional and community-based organizations from six LGAs, as well as the media and other related stakeholders, the forum had an interactive session to resolve issues relating to challenges being experienced by citizens on the CVR exercise as well as issues relating to the use of PVCs as a result of relocation of persons or misplacement of PVCs.
It was in furtherance of series of citizens’ driven engagement under the Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) project, implemented in Lagos across six local government areas, namely Surulere, Lagos Mainland, Somolu, Ifako Ijaiye, Ikorodu and Amuwo Odofin since 2014 by the IPC with the support of ACTIONAID Nigeria and the UKAID, through the Department for International Development (DFID).