The Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum has kicked against the use of card readers for the March 28 and April 11 general elections.
The governors, at an interactive session with the media and civil society organisations in Lagos on Tuesday, also faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission preparedness for the elections.
Before the interactive session titled ‘Sustenance of Democratic Values and National Development,’ ended, The PUNCH learnt that INEC had summoned leaders of all the political parties in the country to a meeting on Thursday over the polls.
As if acting a script with its governors, the PDP also on Tuesday sent a letter to the electoral body detailing its observations on Saturday’s Card Readers mock in 12 states.
The governors at the Lagos forum were Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa); Babangida Aliyu (Niger); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); Bala Ngilari (Adamawa); Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo).
Others were Ibrahim Shema (Katsina); Jonah Jang (Plateau); Mukhtar Yero (Kaduna) and Ibrahim Danwambo (Gombe).
The PDPGF usually holds its meetings in Abuja or any PDP state but this time round they chose Lagos, a stronghold of the opposition All Progressives Congress for the interactive session.
Akpabio, who is the chairman of the PDPGF, said Lagos was chosen because it is the headquarters of the media and activism in Nigeria.
Akpabio said that Lagos had been plagued by the propaganda of the APC and that the PDP wanted to showcase its achievements in the city.
He said the postponement of the elections were justifiable. Although the governors did not canvass for the use of Temporary Voter Cards, they maintained that people who do not have Permanent Voter Cards should be allowed to vote.
Akpabio said Nigerians should be grateful to the PDP for ensuring that the country had the longest span(16 years) of democracy.
He said, “The continued quest of the PDP-led Federal Government for free, fair and credible elections is witnessed in President Goodluck Jonathan’s robust support through adequate and sustained funding as well as the free hand given to INEC to operate.
“But surprisingly, in our own opinion, INEC appears ill-prepared for the 2015 elections. For example, at the time the polls were shifted due to security concerns, over 23 million registered voters had yet to collect their PVCs and you know there are some countries with populations of about just three million.
“Twenty-three million would amount to disenfranchising more than five West African countries in their own elections.
“It will be recalled that even the INEC chairman(Prof. Attahiru Jega) admitted on the floor of the Senate that over one million PVCs had yet to be printed in far away China.
“According to the INEC chairman, the postponement was a blessing in disguise. How then can Nigerians reconcile the purported readiness of INEC for the February 14 election with the testing of card readers more than a month after the postponement? More than three weeks after the elections have been shifted, they are then testing the card readers that would have been used. Given the failure rate of the card readers during the recent mock exercise, it is apparent that many Nigerians will be disenfranchised even when they are registered to vote.
“We re-assert that on no account should any registered voter be disenfranchised for non-possession of PVC even when the person has a TVC when it is not due to one’s own personal fault; even when the card reader has rejected or refused to recognise the thumbprint or the battery is dead and there is no electricity in that area to charge it.
“We don’t want anyone disenfranchised and we are pleading also that elections should not be shifted again because the impression is that we were not ready for elections even though we know that we would have won the elections if they had been allowed to hold.”
Also, Imoke said prior to 2011, Jega was seen as a man of integrity and that was why he was appointed by Jonathan.
He, however, said recent happenings in INEC were beginning to prove otherwise.
Imoke said no one should be disenfranchised on account of the PVC or card reader.
He said, “The facts are before us. The testing of card reader and its failure have not been addressed. PVCs remain unprinted as we speak. INEC has no right whatsoever to disenfranchise any Nigerian.
“I will appreciate it if the media can focus on this issue. I will not want to go to a polling unit and be told that as a result of no fault of mine, my card was rejected. My picture is on my PVC, it looks like me and it is me but because the card reader cannot recognise my fingerprint, I will not be allowed to vote?
“So for us, it is important that we understand democratic values and appreciate that the values of democracy rest squarely on equity and the right of every Nigerian to participate in the process of selecting their leaders.”
Jang, who is the chairman of a faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said he had not been able to collect his PVC.
He said that it was ironic that INEC was insisting on the use of card readers when its chairman had said last year that the card readers would be tested before being used for major elections.
While reading a message alongside Akpabio, he said, “I received a text message from someone this(Tuesday) morning and it reads, ‘During a meeting with a team from the United States last year, Jega had said card readers would not be used for the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections because they were too crucial to be used for experiments.
“INEC said the card readers would be tested in by-elections but now INEC is insisting on using card readers for elections. Are governorship elections of two states more crucial than a presidential election?
“I don’t even have a PVC. What happens if my PVC does not find its way to Plateau State before the elections?”
The governors said Nigerians should not be deceived by the mantra of change propagated by the APC.
Akpabio said the APC Presidential candidate, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), truncated democracy under the guise of fighting corruption but only ended up arresting Nigerians arbitrarily.
He said Buhari had returned with the same issue of corruption, which according to him, is deceitful as those campaigning for him are extremely corrupt.
While responding to a question from journalists over the use of government-owned jets for party campaigns, Jang said democracy was for the rich in most parts of the world and people needed such luxury for protection.
He said, “All over the world, democracy is for the rich. Even in the US, congressmen and senators are rich. You cannot become the President if you are not a millionaire.
“If I leave my house without security, there is no guarantee that I will get back home safely because as a governor, you would have offended some people.”
Governor Aliyu said the APC presidential primary of last December was not won by Buhari but his victory was paid for with money.
INEC summons political parties, PDP writes commission
INEC has however summoned leaders of all registered political parties to a meeting on Thursday. The meeting is aimed at briefing the political parties on its preparation for the elections.
Investigations showed that among the issues to be discussed is the outcome of the card reader test.
INEC’s National Commissioner in Charge of Information, Voter Education Committee, Chris Iyimoga, confirmed the meeting.
He added that the 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners will meet on Wednesday(today).
Another meeting has also been slated by the commission with international observers in Abuja on March 19.
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the PDP has sent a letter to the commission detailing its observations on the mock card readers test.
It said it observed three major elements during the exercise which must be corrected before the elections.
The Deputy National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, told journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, that INEC must work on the card readers to ensure that identified lapses were rectified .
He said, “We urge INEC to test the card readers. We believe that has been done but the result of it has not been made known to the public.
“There are various opinions and reports from various locations across the country. From our own perspective, the card reader as tested on Saturday by INEC has three major elements, this is based on our observations and reports reaching us from the field.”
Secondus described some of the card readers as having very high sensitive setting, low sensitive setting and medium sensitive setting.
He said, “The high sensitive setting makes it difficult for accreditation which takes up to 15 to 20 minutes while the medium and low sensitive makes it easy for accreditation which takes about five minutes to four minutes as the case may be.
“So, we concluded that the card readers have some major default and this can be corrected by INEC or those who provided the technology.