By Msugh Ityokura, Kanayo Umeh, Emeka Nwachukwu, Abiodun Fagbemi, Charles Akpeji, Collins Osuji
As Nigerians go to the polls tomorrow, about 11, 228,582 out of the 84 million registered voters nationwide will not be able to vote due to their failure to collect Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC).
This emerged yesterday as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) put the number of collected and uncollected PVCs at 72,775,502 and 11,228,582 while the number of registered voters stands at 84,004,084. The total percentage of PVCs collected is 86.63.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave these figures at a media briefing in Abuja ahead of the polls to elect a new president and members of the National Assembly.
He said a total of 11,228,582 PVCs representing 13.37 percent were uncollected. Out of this figure, 7,817,905 PVCs were carried over from the 2014-2016 registration exercises while 3,410,677are from the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise held between April 2017 and August 2018.
Additional statistics released by INEC on its website yesterday show Lagos State with a total of 6,570,291 registered voters and the highest number of uncollected PVCs (1,038,902), while Kano and Ogun states closely followed with 761,000 and 680,136 uncollected cards.
Katsina State with a figure of 42,242 has the lowest number of uncollected PVCs, while Taraba and Gombe have 48, 011 and 59,170.
INEC also disclosed that a total of 72,775,502 million registered voters collected their PVCs. The data revealed Lagos as recording the highest number of collected PVCs (5,531,389 million) followed by Kano and Kaduna with 4,696,747 and 3,648,988.
It was also revealed that Ekiti, Bayelsa and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja have the least registered voters with a total of 909,967, 923,182 and 1,344856.
Yakubu assured Nigerians that both the presidential and National Assembly elections would hold tomorrow as rescheduled, saying the commission had tackled all issues concerning logistics.
He disclosed that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) would wave visa fee and as well grant extension of visas of all foreign observers to enable them to remain in the country to cover the elections within the specified period.
“We once again profoundly appreciate the continuous understanding and words of encouragement from all stakeholders. In particular, some of our international observers are on short-term single entry visa. Some may also wish to leave the country after the elections this Saturday and return to observe the governorship, state assembly and FCT area council elections now rescheduled for Saturday 9th March 2019.
“In order to make the processes easier, the NIS, working with the commission, is granting extension of visa to all international observers who require such facility.
“Similarly, the Immigration Service is also granting re-entry visa to all observers who may wish to travel out of the country and return for the second part of the general election. In this regard, the service has also requested me to convey its decision to waive the visa fee and treat all such requests expeditiously. The extension of stay or re-entry into the country will be treated gratis,” he said.
According to the INEC chairman, a special desk to handle those who wish to extend their stay as well as those travelling and coming back to Nigeria before March 9, 2019 has been set up at the headquarters of the commission.
On the welfare of the youth corps members serving as presiding officers at the polling units, the commission said it was unhappy with images of some of them sleeping in bad conditions at the RAC centres.
“We have been in discussion with the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) on how this situation can be ameliorated. We have made an arrangement with the NYSC to move the mattresses used in their orientation camps nationwide, except Borno State where corps members are not deployed, to ease their hardship. As usual, the commission will provide electricity generators and supply water and toiletries in the RACs. We have also liaised with the security agencies for adequate protection of the youths,” he said.
On electoral materials, Yakubu said 19 states had fully deployed as at yesterday except, Bayelsa where the materials would be distributed directly from the state office of the commission.
Meanwhile, the Acting Inspector General of Police, M.A Adamu, has assured Nigerians that security personnel deployed for the elections had been adequately trained and were under strict instruction to abide by the standard operational procedures of the force and international best practices in the conduct of an election.
He said they would remain patriotic, steadfast, professional, neutral and civil, but firm, in their actions throughout the period and beyond.
The IGP who gave the assurance in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said adequate security measures had been put in place to ensure a safe, secure and conducive environment towards peaceful and credible elections.
Adamu urged the citizens to come out en masse tomorrow to cast their votes without fear.
While calling on the public to cooperate with the security operatives, the IGP, however, warned those who may want to undermine the electoral process by engaging in snatching of ballot boxes, hate speeches and vote trading to desist from such acts or face the full consequences of the law.
Also, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who yesterday met with principal staff officers and air officers commanding (AOCs) of the 6 NAF Field Commands, sensitised them to the need to ensure that all NAF personnel remain apolitical while carrying out their duties of providing necessary support to the police, along with other civil security agencies, in ensuring the peaceful conduct of the elections.
The meeting also provided an avenue for the CAS to be briefed on the contingency plans of the six commands for their Areas of Responsibility (AORs) as well as the deployment of NAF aircraft assigned for support operations during the elections.
The operations include surveillance aircraft that would be deployed in potential flashpoints to provide real-time imagery intelligence that would be streamed live to the HQ NAF Situation Room as well as command situation/operations rooms across the country.
Air Marshal Abubakar used the opportunity to again remind the top officers to ensure that NAF personnel are professional and decisive in the discharge of their duties.
He also urged them to work very closely with other security agencies to ensure that no individual or group of individuals undermine the electoral process. He said the commanders would be held personally responsible for any lapses.
“All eligible voters are, therefore, encouraged to come out to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights to vote for the candidates of their choice,” the CAS said.
Meanwhile, a leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, yesterday criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for directing security agents to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers during the general elections.
At a PDP youth rally in Ilorin, Kwara State yesterday, Saraki said that a president who loved his people would not have ordered soldiers to kill them.
Besides, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) yesterday warned military personnel to stay clear of polling units during the elections.
In a statement yesterday in Owerri, Imo State, the MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, questioned the constitutional right of the military personnel to be at the polling units during elections. He said all members of the group would participate actively in the polls and would not be intimidated by anyone during the exercise.
The group condemned the presidential order to the military.
“MASSOB viewed President Buhari’s order to the military as a wild desperation and frustration, his APC-led Federal Government has failed woefully and contributed much to the political, religious, academic, economical and social sufferings of the citizens,” the group said.