The Independent National Electoral Commission has extended the deadline for collection of Permanent Voter Cards to Sunday, February 8, 2015.
This new date is contained in a statement on Sunday by the Chief Press Secretary to the national chairman of the commission, Kayode Idowu.
Idowu, who explained that the new date supersedes the earlier deadline of Saturday, January, 31, also disclosed to The PUNCH that INEC had received the last batch of 3.4 million PVCs.
He said in the statement that the extension was intended to give those who had yet to collect their PVCs the opportunity to do so.
Idowu, who stressed that the commission was ready for the polls, enjoined all registered persons to ensure that they collected their cards on or before February 8.
“The commission reaffirms its determination to make the 2015 elections free, fair, credible and peaceful; and urges all stakeholders, including voters, to spare no effort in working towards the same objective,” he said.
He told The PUNCH that INEC had taken delivery of the 68.8 million PVCS and that the last batch of 3.4 million cards had been sent to all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory for distribution to all registered voters.
Idowu said, “We have taken delivery of all the PVCs, which is 68.8 million and they have been sent to all the states for distribution to the voters.
“The last batch of 3.4 million PVCs have been sent to the field for distribution to the registered voters.”
The All Progressives Congress and the Labour Party has hailed the commission for extending the PVC collection deadline.
“The action is commendable. It is a sign that the commission is a listening body and it is ready to conduct free and fair elections,” its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, told one of our correspondents.
The party however asked the Federal Government to help the commission by declaring a two-day public holiday to enable voters pick up their PVCs.
The party said states under its control had agreed to declare public holidays this week, but said each state governor would pick the dates they prefer.
The APC caucus in the House of Representatives also welcomed the decision but wondered why INEC allowed itself to be put under pressure before extending the PVC collection deadline.
“The voice and resolution of the House helped tremendously in putting pressure on INEC on the absolute need to give people the opportunity to vote and not to be disenfranchised,” its leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The caucus however admitted that “the extension and assurances from INEC will go a long way “ in making the elections hitch-free.
In passing the January 13 resolution, the House had noted that INEC was slow in the distribution of the PVCs.
The House observed that it was unlikely that the commission would give every registered voter a card before February 14.
Gbajabiamila was the one who moved the motion leading to the House resolution.
Part of the motion read, “INEC has been and is still issuing permanent voter cards to eligible voters in replacement of the temporary voter cards issued to Nigerians about four years ago.
“Concerned that the general elections being just four weeks or 31 days from now, it is very unlikely that the commission will be able to distribute the PVCs to all registered and eligible voters before the elections.
“Disturbed that if the current position of the commission (that only voters with the PVCs are qualified to vote) is not addressed, many registered and eligible voters will be disenfranchised in the 2015 general elections to the detriment of the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
“The House resolves that the commission should include in its election guidelines for the 2015 general elections a provision(s) allowing registered voters with the temporary voter card (TVCs) whose names are on record to vote during the 2015 general elections.”
Also, the LP applauded the commission for the extension, but wondered whether the one week extension would be enough.
In order to ease the distribution of the cards, it asked the commission to employ Ad hoc staff to handle the exercise.