ABUJA—With about 10 days to the scheduled presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, said it was yet to print only 500, 000 copies of the Permanent Voters’ Card, PVC.
Chairman of the Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega who made the disclosure at a dialogue session he had with the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in Abuja yesterday, said the contract for printing of the remaining PVCs was awarded to an indigenous firm that is based in the Federal Capital Territory.
Prof. Jega explained that the inability of the Abuja firm to print and deliver the voter cards on time was due to the fact that it ran out of “blank cards” for the production.
The INEC boss described the development as regrettable, even as he assured Nigerians that all the PVCs that will be used for the impending elections will be ready for distribution before Sunday.
Besides, Jega who noted that as at February 14 when the presidential election was initially billed to hold, only 67 per cent of the PVCs were ready for use, said that as at yesterday, INEC had achieved 81 per cent success with regards to the production and distribution of the cards.
He stressed that the cards in the last phase of the production will be distributed at the polling unit level.
He said: “I want to further assure Nigerians that anybody who has registered and has the PVC will be allowed to vote. We have done our best to look at every aspect and angle. We have tried to see what improvements that can be brought about so that the 2015 election will be free, fair and credible. Though our deadline would have expired by Sunday, we have concluded plans for targeted distribution of the remaining PVCs. All the new cards that are taken in this last phase are to be distributed at the polling unit level”, he added.
Jega said that INEC was able to surmount challenges it met in the distribution of the PVCs, especially in Jos and Owerri North, adding, “As I am talking to you today (yesterday), all outstanding cards for Edo state would have been distributed”.
On the feasibility of all eligible voters getting their PVCs before the March 22 deadline for collection, Jega said the commission has considered the idea of further extending the deadline, “but we are still holding back in the meantime because if we go ahead and make that announcement now people will relax. That is why we decided to still peg the deadline at Sunday. However, when push comes to shove then we can make announcement of the new date”, Jega said.
He noted that there has been remarkable improvement on the issue of security within the North Eastern part of the country, saying that information within his disposal showed that only three Local Government Areas in Borno state are still within the grip of insurgents.
Meanwhile, the INEC Chairman warned that the commission would not allow Governors, Ministers, Senators and other highly placed public officers to parade the streets with armed security men on the election days in the guise that they are monitoring the electoral process.
“This is an area that we really want the security agencies to do a better job than they did in 2011 and all the subsequent elections we have had in this country. No public officer should be accompanied to the polling unit by armed security men.
“The Governors while going to the polling units to vote may be accompanied by two unarmed security men on plain clothes. Some of the breaches we had in previous elections were from high profile people. We want the security agencies to be more diligent in ensuring that the guidelines are complied with this time around”.
While reacting to questions pertaining to the workability of the card reader machines, the Director of ICT at INEC, Mr. Chidi Nwafor, said the machines were programmed to work with all the terrestrial networks in Nigeria, “like MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat, using dedicated lines”.
He said: “It is a known fact that Nigeria is not covered 100 per cent by the network providers, however, the unavailability of network will not stop the card readers from carrying out the authentication and verification of voters on the election days”.
Nwafor said that though the accreditation is supposed to stop by 1:30pm on the election day, he said that the card readers can still continue the accreditation of voters till 6pm.
“The machines are not programmed in such a way that it stops accreditation at 1:30pm. People tend to get us wrong on this issue, we are not saying that once it is 1:30pm then nobody should be accredited again, no! The process will continue until the last man on the line is accredited to vote”, he stated.
Jega gave instances that could lead to the postponement of election in any given polling unit.
He said: “If a card reader fails to function at all at a polling unit, we agreed with all the political parties that it should be replaced. However, if it fails and is not replaced before 1pm on the election-day, we agreed that the election in such polling unit should be postponed till the next day. We have learnt from Ghana where such incidences occurred”.
He said that INEC is currently in possession of 182, 000 card readers, adding that 400 of the machines were dead on arrival as they could not boot after several attempts.
“We are comfortable with the credibility of the card readers and in all the tests we have conducted none of the card readers failed”, he said.
Jega revealed that INEC will use the International Conference Center, ICC, in Abuja as its collation center.
“If there is any result that we feel lacks integrity, we will not hesitate to cancel that result. Likewise, wherever a ballot box is snatched, we will cancel election in that place. We will work together with the police towards making sure that we prevent snatching of the card readers. If people target the card readers and start snatching them, it will constitute a sufficient reason for us to cancel the election”, Jega added.