Fashola Slams INEC Over PVC Distribution

•Governor Fashola of Lagos State

•Governor Fashola of Lagos State

Kazeem Ugbodaga

Lagos State Governor,  Babatunde Fashola, has slammed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the exclusion of nine local governments in the state from the Permanent Voter’s  Card (PVC), distribution which began Friday.

The affected nine local governments are Alimosho, Amuwo Odofin, Epe, Apapa, Badagry, Oshodi-Isolo, Surulere, Eti-Osa and Shomolu.

PVC distribution will only take place in Agege, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikeja, Mushin, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Ikorodu, Ibeju-Lekki, Kosofe and Ojo.

The governor, in a state-wide broadcast in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, Friday morning, said by omission or commission, INEC had decided to make the exercise a painful experience for Lagos residents by announcing that it would only issue Permanent Voters Cards in 11 local governments.

He said INEC had now fixed between 28 and 30 November to distribute PVCs in the remaining nine local governments, adding that he could only imagine the level of disappointment that Lagosians must all feel, having waited anxiously for this exercise and in spite of the fact that the state government had declared a work free day.

“I am deeply disappointed at this display of lack of planning that speaks volumes of the contempt and disregard of this national agency for the rights of citizens. I wish to recall that it was INEC that first announced that this exercise was planned for August, and later shifted it to September, and later to today and yet they did not get it right.

“If this is a foretaste of what we should expect in the general elections, for me it is a bad start. It tastes awful. INEC has not answered the question I posed about the delisting of over 1,400,000  voters from the register it compiled in 2011 in spite of assurances it gave Nigerians, and billions of naira it expended for the purpose,” he lamented.

According to Fashola, “as far as this further messy conduct is concerned, its lame excuse is that nine contractors disappointed it. Who are the contractors? Are they faceless? I think Nigerians deserve to know who they are. The information at my disposal is that all the cards are in Lagos and INEC must explain why it had decided not to distribute all of them.

“Nevertheless, I want to urge all of you who registered in the 11 local governments, namely: Agege, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikeja, Mushin, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu, Kosofe and Ojo to go and collect your Permanent Voters’ Cards to prevent yourselves from being disenfranchised.”

The governor appealed to those who registered in the suspended nine local governments to still observe the work-free day and stay at home, urging all to remain peaceful, but determined to be vigilant and assured, that nobody would take their rights away, as government would stand up for them.

The collection of the cards started on a shaky note Friday as officials of  INEC were not seen at various polling units even as a large number of electorate waited for them.

As at 11.00am, residents of Lagos were still awaiting INEC’s officials to come to the polling units to distribute the PVCs. The exerecise was scheduled to start at 8.00am and end at 4.00pm.

At a polling unit on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, several people were seen waiting for INEC officials to come to distribute the PVCs.

It was the same situation at another polling units in Alausa, where the distribution exercise had not started late in the morning, with residents complaining bitterly that they had not seen INEC’s officials.

A resident at Fagba area of Ifako Ijaiye, Folake told P.M.NEWS that they had not seen INEC’s officials in their area to distribute the PVCs as people had been waiting for them endlessly.

The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, told P.M.NEWS that because of the hitches, the exercise has been extended by one day and would end by 5pm daily instead of 4pm.

The Lagos State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Tunji Shelle, described the situation as regrettable but urged those not affected to go out and register.

According to him, “the situation has happened, and we must manage it carefully. INEC must ensure that the second phase of distribution holds without hitches.

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Lagos State Chairman of the Labour Party,  Alhaji Hakeem Olaofe, urged all stakeholders to show understanding with the plight of the commission.

“It is unfortunate that this has happened. But we must all join hands to make it a success,” he said.

Lagos state Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Obadia Akiola, said that INEC must find ways of compensating the political parties for the money spent in mobilising people for the exercise.

“A lot of resources have been wasted on this exercise,” he said.

An APC chieftain in Alimosho, Jeleel Sulaimon, asked the INEC to explain how over 1.4 million names of registered voters in the state disappeared from the voters’ register.

He wondered why INEC should refuse to carry out the exercise in all the 20 electoral constituencies of the state, describing it as unfair.

An APC chieftain in Surulere, Akanni Kareem, described as strange the fact that INEC, which declared 6.5 million as the number of registered voters in the state in 2011 and used the number for the purpose of conducting elections that year, would turn around and declare the number to be 4.8 million in 2014, adding that the commission owes the people of Lagos an explanation as to what happened to over 1.4 million names on the list.

Meanwhile, speaking at a Voters Advocacy Programme on Thursday, Fashola decried mass apathy during previous elections in the country, calling on Lagosians to ensure that they exercise their civic rights.

According to the governor, from the balloting results collated over the years across the country during general elections, only about 52.3 percent of registered voters participated in the 1998 Presidential elections nationwide while the number rose to 69 percent in 2003 but dropped to 58 percent in 2007 and further to 52 percent in 2011.

In Lagos, the governor said voters percentage turnout in Presidential and Governorship elections were 43 percent for Presidential and 29 percent for Governorship in 1998, 30 percent for Presidential and 30.1 percent for Governorship in 2003, 29.3 percent for Presidential and 28.9 percent for Governorship in 2007 while in 2011 it was 31.8 percent for Presidential and 30.5 for Governorship.

Fashola, who said the situation was not different at the local government level, pointed out that in 1999 the turnout of voters was 9.7 percent, 10.5 percent in 2003, 23.3 percent in 2008 and 12.78 percent in 2011 elections, adding that the situation did not reflect the importance of local government administration in governance.

“What it means is that out of the 6.8 million of us that registered, only about 30 percent of us went to vote and that is why I am standing here. That is not an enthusiastic turnout, in my view, about what is most important to us,” he said, pointing out that the danger of non-participation in the exercise lies in getting wrong leaders foisted on the people.

The Lagos State Government has mobilised thousands of Lagosians to collect their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, begins distributions of the cards Friday.

Speaking at the Stakesholders Forum on Voters Advocacy Programme at the Lagos Television Ground on Thursday, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, said the importance of the forum lies in the fact that since democracy is about the people, it is imperative that the people must be involved all the way and all the time, adding that the forum was part of the practical demonstration of the State Government’s commitment to carry the people along in all things.

“This forum is another medium of creating awareness and sensitization of the people of Lagos to take advantage of the INEC programmes for the Voters Registration Verification (VRV) distribution of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR),” the SSG said.

According to her, the power to determine servant leaders resides in the voters, urging hem to use their votes wisely, but not after ensuring their eligibility by validating their names and other particulars and obtain their PVCs from INEC at the designated polling units beginning from Friday and ending on Sunday.

She said those who had attained 18 years since the last registration exercise or who for one reason or the other could not find their names on the existing register should register between 12 and 17 November, while those who had changed their addresses were required to update their current addresses so that they could be allocated to polling units closest to their addresses.

The SSG appealed to Lagosians to actively participate in the electoral process because the power to decide their future is in their hands, while the passport to embark on the journey is the PVC.

Speaking at the event, Governor Babatunde Fashola urged the people to remain vigilant, while assuring them of adequate information on evolving issues as the election processes continue, pointing out that vigilance was expedient as the collection of PVCs represent the first and most important step in the election processes leading to the choice of those who would eventually lead the people at all levels of government from 2015.

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