FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, February 11, 2019
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2019 GENERAL POLLS: CAN NIGERIANS BANK ON INEC ASSURANCES OF CREDIBLE POLLS?

ew days before Nigerians go to polls to elect their president and national legislators, there is every indication that millions of Nigerians may be disenfranchised if the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), does not live up to its bidding. Despite intensive struggles, millions of voters are yet to access this indispensable material. This unfortunate development has cast doubts in the minds of analysts and political observers whether INEC's persistent assurances of credible polls are feasible.

Availability of voters card is the basic step that the commission should take to allay the fears of the public that the upcoming polls may go the way of preceding polls in the country which were characterized by massive rigging and other electoral malpractices.

Periodically, the commission conducts Voters Registration Exercise for some reasons which include capturing those who were below 18 years when the last polls were conducted, transferring the PVCs of those who have relocated from their base, replacing those PVCs that were damaged or lost, among other reasons.

The current exercise began sometime in 2017 , an ample time for INEC to have carried out a very successful exercise, but the commission in its characteristic manner is seriously found wanting almost two years after. The complaints are pouring in torrents as Nigerians relive their ordeals in the hands of INEC.Some voters who were registered at the nascent period of the exercise are yet to access their cards despite numerous visits to the various local government offices of INEC which are far flung from the people.

The commission's local government offices were a Mecca of sort recently for voters who thronged those offices on daily basis to secure the cards to no avail. It was one flimsy excuse or the other ranging from the excuse that those in charge of particular wards were not on seat to the excuse that PVCs covering some periods were not printed, even at the last minute.

It took intensive pressure for INEC to move the registration closer to the people by moving from the local government headquarters to the wards.This was as a result of repeated calls after voters were unable to travel long distances to access their local government headquarters.The fact that majority of the citizenry in the developing world live in the rural communities than urban centres could have been adequately captured in the commission's arrangement to ensure success of the exercise. More worrisome is that even when the registration centres were decentralized, the exercise was carried in such shoddy manner that increased the doubts in the minds of Nigerians whether INEC will surmount the more technical and complex functions that characterise the polls such as capturing the voters through the card reading process.

Besides, the commission has demonstrated huge communication deficiency. Imagine on the night of the February 8 deadline for PVC collection, Nigerians were still receiving messages via SMS urging them to go and collect their PVC. One would have expected the commission to adopt the traditional modes of communication more since their target audience are highly concentrated in the rural communities.

INEC should remedy its image by addressing the PVC issue. This will ensure that every eligible voter is availed their voters card. If not the allegations leveled against the commission of registering under age Nigerians and channeling the PVCs to unauthorized individuals will stick.


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