By stopping, at the weekend, the continuous voter registration (CVR), which qualifies a registrant for a Temporary Voter Card (TVC), and a Permanent Voter Card (PVC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has wittingly disenfranchised particularly millions of young people of voting age, from performing their civic duty at the next elections. This is despite queuing, under inclement weather, for hours, days and weeks.
Although it was the culmination of a two-week extension of the previous deadline of August 17, the adjournment shows that those not registered, but were willing, may outnumber the barely 10 million additional registrants that INEC brags about.
One needed to be at the far-flung INEC offices in the local government headquarters, to witness what Nigerians were subjected to by the commission, which reportedly extended the closing of registration period from 60 to 180 days before a general election.
If those for new registration were denied, millions of other Nigerians, who had registered and wanted to collect their PVCs, transfer voting points, or had illegible names or blurred images on the PVCs, did not fare better.
Typically, Nigerians would “wait for the last minute” to carry out assignments, duties or obligations. But in the matter of the CVR and collection of PVCs, they were determined, and desperate, but INEC disappointed them “bigly” (big league). Of little help were the extra “mobile” registration points because, as the officials moved to a new location, thousands of yet-to-be-registered voters migrated with them.
Sometimes, INEC officials wouldn’t show up at the designated CVR stands, or they report late and close early. These hiccups were multiplied in the “two-week grace” offered to new registrants and others having issues with their PVCs.
Below is a firsthand account of the lead up to the termination of the CVR, and collection of PCVs:
I was embedded, for four days, at the INEC office in the Alimosho Local Government Area, Lagos State.
In three of the four days, from Tuesday, August 28 to Thursday, August 30, I arrived at the office between 6a.m. and 7a.m. And on each occasion, I was late to collect a “number” to entitle me to be attended to. I always met, and left hundreds of eligible voters in and outside the INEC premises.
When I complained to one of the INEC officials about my inability to obtain a “number” to queue, he advised I should be at the second gate of the council headquarters between 2a.m. and 4a.m. That I did on Friday, August 31, and I was number 368 on the list, which was over 1,000 as at 7a.m.
While waiting for the INEC officials to commence work, the heavens gave way, and the huge crowd scampered for any shelter in the generator/transport shed, makeshift cyber cafés, uncompleted buildings and broken-down vehicles.
When the rain subsided, one of the officials moved to a higher ground to address the surging and cankerous crowd. According to him, those who came for other matters, such as collection of PVCs, transfer of voting points, rectification of problematic PVCs, and replacement of lost PVCs, should go away, and report back as from Monday, this week.
Facing the hundreds for the last CVR for 2018, the INEC official threw bombshells. Reading from several lists compiled between 7p.m. the previous day, and over the night, the official said: “From 600 and above, go home,” and he squeezed a list. “From 500 to 600, go away,” and he squeezed another list. “From 190 to 300, go face your daily chores,” and he squashed a list. “From 300 to 500, good bye,” and he crumpled a list. “If you are from one to 190, you wait.”
There’s a babel of protestations: From people who slept overnight; those who arrived at midnight and others that hurried in at the break of light to obtain “numbers” for the PVC services.
Following repeated, “please, go back, move back so that we can begin,” and yet, those that “should go away till next week or next year” remained adamant, the official handed the lists to a colleague, to call out the numbers.
More minutes wasted, and the official cleared his throat and said: “Number one, come here,” and a woman stepped out and moved towards the INEC gate. With continued pleas for space, the official called numbers two to 10, to step forward.
Then a mild drama. A burly guy wanted a woman behind him to leave the line, as he claimed she wasn’t among numbers one to 10. When the woman maintained her stand, the young man, addressed as “Biggy”, pushed her forehead for saying, “I will lock you up.”
After heated exchanges, normalcy was restored and “Biggy” addressed the woman as, “she’s my sister,” and some in the crowd said the woman was “hiding her smiles at you (‘Biggy’). Still, when numbers 11 to 20 were called, the woman moved up as number 13, but not for long, as one of her finger nails was not marked with red ink, unlike other applicants from one to 190.
From here, I called it a day, carrying the burden of thousands of “disqualified” prospective voters at the Alimosho INEC office, and millions of Nigerians, some of who alleged sharp practices by the officials, to facilitate express data capturing. The officials denied the accusations.
But I dare say that on Tuesday, August 28, a “facilitator” at the council headquarters, told me he could direct me to “somebody, who will collect ‘something’ to help you get registered.” That “something,” freely discussed by the registrants, graduated from “N200 to N2,500” by Friday.
When I told the “facilitator” I wasn’t ready to bribe to register for PVC, he said: “Okay, you can go to the court, to swear to affidavit that you misplaced your PVC. Please, go (away). I want to attend to my customers,” as he called to his partner to take a woman an instant photograph, and went to another woman, saying, “Let me collect money for my job o jare.” And he gave me a cynical grin!
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