15th January, 2015
On Tuesday, the Nigerian House of Representatives urgently came up with a motion and, indeed, approved that the electorate in the country with the temporary voter’s cards be allowed to exercise their right to vote for their candidates in the series of elections that would hold in February and March. To achieve this, the members of the House had to amend the country’s Electoral Act to accommodate all Nigerians with the temporary voter’s cards.
We commend this effort by the House of Representatives and the mover of the motion as it truly shows some of the members understand the plight of many Nigerians with regard to their failed attempts to secure their Permanent Voter’s Cards.
The distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had a turbulent start and the shoddiness has persisted all over the country. It also exposed the weakness and poor preparation of INEC for the elections.
Officials of INEC did everything possible to address questions and convince people to bear with them to no avail. Why should the people understand when four years after registering and getting their temporary voter’s cards, some of them could not find their names in the register?
Many who also went to their various units found their names, but there were no permanent cards for them. This did not happen to just the electorate alone. Many politicians also witnessed this. Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and his wife, Dame Abimbola, were some of those who could not get their cards.
According to INEC, a total of 68,833,476 Nigerians registered for the February general elections. Out of this number, 54,341,610 Permanent Voters Cards are ready, but only 38,774,391 Nigerians have so far collected their Permanent Voter’s Cards.
Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of INEC, before the motion had stressed that for the avoidance of doubt, possession of Permanent Voter’s Cards is a strict condition for anyone intending to vote in the 2015 elections. Our argument had been that since only 54,341,610 Permanent Voter’s Cards are ready out of the total number of registered voters, is INEC planning to disenfranchise the about 14 million registered voters whose Permanent Voter’s Cards are not ready for reasons only INEC should explain?
Several Nigerians have related tales of their inability to get their cards at the various collection centres because of some shoddy arrangements by INEC. So what would happen to these people? This is why we support the call for all eligible voters with temporary cards to partake in the exercise and ensure they contribute their quota to the nation and so that they would have a sense of responsibility. Anything short of that would not be accepted by Nigerians.