Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, declared affirmatively that disappointment awaits politicians “still going about purchasing Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs)” for use on election day.
The Commission also said supporters of competing presidential candidates will help their respective aspirants better if they spend the next two months before the polls rigorously convincing and mobilizing registered voters to vote for their preferred candidates than “smearing the reputation of INEC with baseless conspiracy theories.” The Commission vowed: “It will not work.”
In a chat with The Guardian, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, maintained that the Commission is not a political party and does not have a preferred candidate.
According to him, the Commission has been preparing for the 2023 polls, since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, perfecting existing tools and introducing other innovations.
He said: “These innovations are designed to ensure the integrity of the process and make it impossible for any politician or INEC staff to compromise an election in favor of any candidate.
“Therefore, the insinuation that some politicians are buying PVCs to rig the 2023 general election is baseless because INEC has moved very far away from the period when the Incident Form could be used for that purpose on election day.”
The Guardian had asked INEC to respond to a trending post, alleging that moves to buy votes could eventually “reflect on INEC’s portal…in collaboration with INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu.”
Part of the post reads: “Yesterday, I was driving past the Ahiazu Council office and I saw many people there. I asked and was told they wanted to fill out forms and submit them for empowerment. I asked how and was shown a form people were filling.
“Could you believe that in the form, they asked for PVC numbers, National Identification Numbers, Bank Verification Numbers, and personal information, like bank account numbers and other personal data?
“Afterwards, they took photo shots of each participant and keyed it against their information. I was told that this is going on in all the local councils in the 36 states of the federation, and they are using empowerment as a cover for this broad-day robbery.
“Only God knows how they do it with people’s PVC and it will eventually reflect on INEC’s portal on election day, in collaboration with INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu.”
BUT explaining efforts by INEC to checkmate vote buying and other electoral malpractices, Oyekanmi said: “Recall that for the 2015 and 2019 general elections, the Commission used the Smart Card Reader (SCR) to authenticate the PVC and accredit the voter on election day via his or her fingerprint and allowed the use of the Incident Form.
“Unfortunately, some politicians took advantage of this waiver, bought PVCs, gave them out to their acquired voters, and sent them to polling units to vote, using the Incident Form.
“This was one of the reasons the Commission introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the 2023 general election. The BVAS has one significant advantage over the SCR: it accredits through fingerprint and facial recognition.
So, if your fingerprint fails, certainly your face will not fail. However, if the BVAS rejects your face, it means you are not an authentic voter and will not be allowed to vote. You will be asked to leave the polling station immediately. You could also be arrested for impersonation.”
He noted further: “To engender transparency, the Commission introduced the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal in 2020, where individual polling unit results are uploaded on election day. We used the portal for the Edo, Ondo, Ekiti Osun, and Anambra off-season governorship elections.
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“At the end of voting on election day, after the ballots have been counted and results announced, the Presiding Officer will take a picture of the result sheet – Form EC8A – and upload the same to the IReV portal before departing to the collation center. Party agents and voters will witness this activity that is backed by law.”
He declared: “So, for this 2023 election, it is one genuine voter, one vote. No PVC, no voting. No accreditation by BVAS, no voting. If you try to make trouble at the polling unit because the BVAS rejects your fingerprint and face, the security agents around will arrest and prosecute you, according to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
“Therefore, this general election will not be business as usual. If there are politicians out there still going about purchasing PVCs to use pseudo-voters on election day, they will not only be disappointed but arrested and prosecuted.”
In a related development, the Nigeria Police Force assured that rigging would be difficult to perpetrate in next year’s general election.
At a stakeholders’ meeting with community policing officers across 16 council areas of Kwara State, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Zone 8, Lokoja, Kogi State, Asafa Adekunle, said snatchers of ballot boxes, besides risking their lives, would, henceforth, be engaging in futile exercise due to improved electoral technology.
Adekunle said: “Tell them aloud that the era of ballot stockpiling is over. Let them also know that anyone snatching ballot boxes will be engaging in a wild goose chase. As you vote with your PVC, the computer has captured and recorded it.
“Votes will be counted and results announced right there, after voting in the presence of all stakeholders. So, in the year 2023, rigging will be difficult, if not impossible.”
MEANWHILE, the Kano Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), yesterday, promised concerted efforts to guarantee credible and violence-free campaign and electioneering in 2023.
Following a meeting, Commissioner of Police, Mamman Dauda, who is also the ICCES chairman, said: “Owing to attacks on INEC headquarters, offices, and facilities in the southern part of the country, we have resolved to take proactive measures.
“At the state INEC headquarters, we will block the two major roads. Though we are not praying for any attack by miscreants, we are doing everything possible to see that we provide adequate security for INEC.”
He said police in the state, recently, recorded cases of PVCs snatching, adding that the culprit was arrested and prosecuted.
He told reporters: “Issues discussed at the meeting consisted of the review of the democratic process and electioneering campaigns that started a few weeks ago.
“We also discussed few cases of violence recorded during electioneering campaigns, which included destruction of billboards, and posters, and inflicting of injuries. We mapped out strategies on how to forestall them, as the political parties carry on with their campaigns.
“We also looked at the readiness of the police and other security agencies to ensure credible and violence free elections. And we called for all security agencies to synergies.
“ICCES also mapped out strategies to provide adequate security for INEC offices across the 44 council areas in the state.”