Thousands of frustrated voters in the Borno State Capital Maiduguri, who have been waiting for corrections to be made on their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), have discovered collection centres have closed without delivering the cards, ending their hopes of voting in this coming election.
The total number of people waiting for corrected cards has not been released by the election regulator, but it is thought to be as many as 14,500.
According to INEC figures, as many as one per cent of Borno’s registered voters are believed to not have a voter’s card. Inec says these cards are “uncollected” — implying it was up to the voter to pick them up.
But frustrated voters who had been waiting as much as six months for corrections to be made on their records and their cards to be reissued told HumAngle they were “sad” they had been “denied the right to vote”.
Over 2.5 million people are registered to vote in Borno.
In January, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that 76,677 people had applied to have their cards replaced. This week, figures released by INEC suggest that 19 per cent of these had not been collected by the deadline.
Inec framed the figures as “uncollected cards”, but voters told HumAngle they had been regularly trying to pick up their cards and been turned away.
These figures suggest at least 14,500 people waiting for reissued cards have been disenfranchised.
The figure for the total number of people who have not picked up a voter’s card at all is even higher.
The Independent National Electoral Commission said that as many as 18 per cent of newly registered voters had not picked up their voter’s card.
According to INEC’s figures, 132,750 new voters had been registered in the years before the 2023 election. They said that 82 per cent of these cards had been picked up. This suggests at least 23,000 people have been disenfranchised because they did not get their Permanent Voters Card.
Voters trying to correct their details told HumAngle that they have repeatedly visited the INEC collection centres assigned to issue PVCs. For the past six months, they have been told the same thing; their voters’ cards have not arrived.
This week, they discovered the centres have closed, with just a few days to the general elections.
Dr Benjamin Tunji Olaosebikan, a lecturer from the University of Maiduguri, has expressed his dismay for not getting his PVC despite visiting the centres uncountable times since last year. The news that his PVC may come but only after the general elections frustrated him the most.
Benjamin told HumAngle he tried to get Inec to correct a misspelling of his name and correct a mistake in the location of his polling unit in August last year. He was told by INEC staff at the centre in Maimusari Ward that all PVCs that applied for corrections and changes from August last year have not arrived.
“Certainly, the situation is alarming and disturbing. Because the PVC we are supposed to use is not made available to us and I visited the centre several times but I am always told it has not arrived.” Benjamin said.
He further added that “This morning, I called them to confirm but what they told me is that my PVC may not come until after the 2023 general elections. This is saddening for a nation like Nigeria.”
“By this, I am being denied the right to vote. It is a pity that it is happening in our nation,” he said.
Emanuel Yusuf said he wanted to cast his vote, but he did not have his PVC. He applied for a change of location (from Gaidam local government to Maiduguri) in September 2022. He has not received his amended card.
“I visited the INEC office in Jere five times but they always tell me my voter card is not ready. I had to collect their contact information so that I could be asking them on the phone just to reduce the cost of travelling to their places all the time but eventually they told me they have closed even though our cards were still not ready,” Yusuf said.
“I don’t know how to cast my vote and it stuck in my head. Does that mean I am out of the election and I cannot participate in the upcoming elections?” he said.
“I don’t know what to do.” He added.
Speaking with a source working for INEC at one of the centres issuing PVCs in Maiduguri, they are also worried that some of the cards that applied for corrections from that period have not arrived at the centre yet. They are concerned about people who had to be visiting and constantly calling them on phones for their cards and nothing to tell them but that same detestable phrase “it has not arrived yet”.
In an interview with INEC’s official in Maiduguri, Shuaibu Ibrahim, head of the Education and Public Relations Department, said, “In all the PVCs delivered to the state, 82 per cent of new registered PVCs have been collected while 81 per cent of transfer and replacement of PVCs have been collected also.”
He further added that other PVCs have not arrived in the state and there is nothing they can do at the state level.
The majority of the PVCs have been issued, but for those that are yet to receive their cards, it is because the state has not received them, he said.
Ibrahim told HumAngle that those that are yet to collect their PVCs can only get it after the 2023 general elections as the date of distribution has elapsed.
“It is late now until after the 20223 general elections. According to the rule we were supposed to stop distribution of PVCs last Sunday and we have stopped it,” he said.
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