Barely five weeks to the start of this year’s general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said about eight million would-be voters are yet to pick up their permanent voter card (PVC). One of INEC’s National Commissioner, Dr. Mohammed Lecky, disclosed this during an interview with THISDAY on Saturday while reaffirming the commission’s commitment to the prevention of electoral fraud.
Lecky also said the commission had no intention of re-introducing the controversial incidence forms in the February and March elections.
He said, “In fact, the use of the incidence form has been completely abrogated. It is no longer part of INEC’s regulations and guidelines. So, that is the position. There is no re-introduction of the incidence form, contrary to what the media had reported recently.
“First and foremost, INEC is a very responsive agency and once people raised the objection and following the review of the 2015 general election, a number of observers, like the CSOs, NGOs and international organisations, had made recommendations on how to improve and we have to respond to them. One of the things they recommended is that we have to do away with the incidence form because it could be susceptible to all manner of abuses and we don’t want to give chance to those abuses to either occur or give a perception to their occurrence.”
Regarding the number of PVCs yet to be collected, the INEC national commissioner said, “There is no state in the country where we have achieved 100 per cent distribution of PVC. The distribution of PVC is the biggest headache for us. We need the media to help us encourage the people to come and collect their PVCs. People are not coming forward to pick their PVCs. We have about eight million PVCs yet to be collected by Nigerians.”
The INEC commissioner stated further that in the absence of the incidence form, the electoral body had put measures in place to ensure rigorous authentication of the would-be voter in case the card reader failed to work.
He noted, “It is possible to have a situation whereby the card reader is malfunctioning and we have to resort to manual accreditation. A would-be presenter who presents himself to cast a vote but his fingerprint cannot be authenticated. In that case, his PVC will be sufficient – as it is verified that the card is issued by INEC and that it belongs to the would-be voter.”
Continuing, Lecky said, “We have a voter register at the point of voting in which we verify the name of the would-be voter, his photo and other details. So, if we don’t use incidence form you are removing a cloud of doubt. So we’re responding to that by removing the form.
“At the same time, we are also taking details of voters’ personal information. We have redesigned the register itself. The voter register now has provisions for us to take your details.
“We will take your name, again, we will take your phone number. If we are asking for those details the person may not go forward because he knows we can follow through to know exactly who he is and whether he has come to impersonate or something like that. Such a measure is a deterrent for any perpetration of electoral fraud.”
Lecky, however, expressed concern about the country’s media becoming a conveyor of fake news. He said, “We are very concerned when we saw that the media, particularly newspapers, carried a news that is not true on the front page – something that could have been easily verified on our website. We have been doing our best to ensure fake news does not impact on the forthcoming elections. We have been embarking on various voter education campaigns and advertisements and engagement with the media; as well using various social media platforms to counteract fake news.
“We are also using youth ambassadors to ensure the right information is passed to the public. We are also making ourselves available to be engaged – if you want to interview the chairman or any of the commissioners. We are also open to suggestions from the media on how to carry out our national responsibility.”
He dispelled a rumour that the electoral body would not post election results at each polling unit.
“This is not true. In our new regulation, that particular requirement is mandatory – it’s not optional. It’s mandatory that results must be posted at every polling unit. We are urging the media to remain nonpartisan in the coming elections. They should be circumspect in their reportage. INEC is ready to work with the media to ensure the elections are credible and fair,” Lecky added.