By Okechukwu Onuegbu, Chinedu Nwaneri, Gabriel Alonta, Kene Onyekwuluje, Phil Okose & Ebere Aralu
Anxious eligible voters besieged some local government headquarters across Anambra state in their desperate bid to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) being distributed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) while other council secretariats witnessed apathy.
Checks by Orient Daily team of news gatherers, across some local governments in the state, revealed that while most PVC collection points witnessed massive influx of eligible voters anxious to pick their cards in readiness for the November 18 governorship poll, other centers witnessed low turn-outs.
Orient Daily recalled that INEC kick-started the PVC distribution exercise last Friday at the ward levels with low turn-out as many people were not aware of the exercise. The distribution at the ward level, however, ended on Sunday with minor complaints.
Voters who could not utilise the three day window were now required to go to their designated local government areas to pick them. The exercise, according to the commission, would last until November 15, barely three days to the poll.
However, investigations by this paper reveal that the massive turn-out of eligible voters at the various local government areas stem from the fear that the exercise may end within a week. In some areas with low turn-out, this could be attributed to the fact that most of the eligible voters were away on official assignments or markets.
Chris Ogham, personal assistant to the transition committee chairman of Idemili North local government area, Barr. Ralph Nnabuife Asha, told Orient Daily at Ward 1, Nkpor, Idemili North local government area that “the exercise was very peaceful in all the wards in the council area.” According to him, “INEC started the issuance of PVC to the peo- ple who came for it about 8.00 am and stayed till evening from Friday to Sunday.
Local governments that wit- nessed massive turn-out be- tween Monday and Tuesday include Anambra East, Idemili NorthandSouth,Ekwusigoand Nnewi North, Dunukofia and Nji- koka. At Aguata, Anaocha, Njik- oka, Dunukofia, Awka South and Awka North local government areas, Orient Daily news crew reports that apathy, unavailabil- ity of materials and insufficient INEC staff constituted stumbling blocks to it.
At Oduke Layout in Obosi, the chairman of the local area, Mr. Nicholas Okechukwu, disclosed that “we employed the services of a town crier to tell people to go and collect their PVC and, since then, there was no complaint in favour or against INEC. So, I be- lieve it was without complaint.”
Also at Idemili South council area, scores were seen comfortably collecting their PVC at the ward level and, according to a voter, Peter Okeke, “I commend INEC for having a peaceful exercise for the first time in history of it.”
In Onitsha North and South there was a measure of apathy as the residents, who are mostly traders usually leave their homes as early as 7.30 for their various shops.
In Okpoko area, there was not much turn out as most residents who are non-indigenes and who registered in their states of origin and did not find it necessary to transfer their PVC to Anambra state. Pa Madu Okeke, an octogenarian in Okpoko, Ogbaru councilarea,toldourcorrespondent that, “I am old and don’t’ have that strength to go and get mylostPVCnow,theyshould come here and issue me with a new one.”
Emmanuel Nwankwo, who came for his card at the Awka South local government head- quarters, also expressed joy when he was eventually issued his PVC as, according to him, “this will enable me perform my civic duties of voting for the can- didate of my choice”. Nwankwo
said he was also delighted because voters’ card is very important to him as “it serves as a means of identification, even in performing some banking transactions.”
Another excited PVC collector, Agummadu Blessing, however, decried the initial poor turn-out of people, especially in the rural communities who failed to take advantage of the window period to pick theirs at the ward level. She blamed the development on low awareness and urged the commission to always carry out massive awareness campaign before such exercise. She stressed that many rural dwellers may find it difficult and expensive to travel to local government secretariats for the collection of the voter’s cards due to financial challenges.
An INEC staff, who spoke to Orient Daily, disclosed that the exercise was successful so far. He, however, dismissed the claims that the initial low turn-out was due to poor awareness, arguing that the PVC distribution exercise was well publicised. According to him, people were also urged to pass information on the neighborhoods and to their friends.
Although INEC officials at Ekwusigo council secretariat claimed the exercise was hitch- free, one of those who came to pick theirs, Mr. Kenneth Nwaigbo of Anaubaho Ihembosi, complained of late arrival of of- ficial. Ifeoma Ezene from Egbema also disclosed that she was forced to leave the place without collecting her card because their own PVC distributor was nowhere to be found even as late as 11:10 am.
At Nnewi North, INEC offi- cial who refused to disclose her name, complained that there were too many people waiting to collect their cards at the same time. Mr. Chukwuka Okonkwo, from Otolo Nnewi also confirmed that he went through stress be- fore he was able to collect his own, while another man com- plained that he was told that his name was not on the register.
At Aguata, a council area with 13 communities, there were vot- ers waiting to be attended to by only four INEC officials detailed for the distribution of the PVCs, at the time Orient Daily arrived. Similarly, in Anaocha, comprising 10 communities, only one INEC official was seen distributing the PVCs, even as people from Adazi-Enu ward 1 and ward 2, and others were seen whiling away the time and complaining bitterly that INEC officers in charge of their wards were yet to arrive.
Two INEC officers were seen attending to four voters spotted at Achalla, the local government headquarters of Awka North, while four others from Umukabia, Achalla were lamenting that they had spent two hours waiting for INEC of- ficers who they were told had gone to the market.
At Abagana, headquarters of Njikoka, local government area, the exercise was full of fun as some political party stakehold- ers were busy buying snacks
for the voters waiting to obtain their PVC.
According to Emmanuel Nwafor, “I was unable to get my PVC in my village because the INEC officials told me that they couldn’t find it. They directed me to Ekwulobia, Aguata local government area secretariat where I later found it”.
Nwafor, while bemoaning the low turnout of electors, called on those yet to collect their PVC, to quickly do so as it would enable them to exercise their franchise during the elections.
Speaking also, Mr. Ikechukwu Anene, lamented saying, “I registered in 2011, but when I was unable to collect the PVC, I came to be re-captured again. I was told that I have been previously captured, and as such, I was given a slip with a promise that my card will be printed.
“But now that I have come to collect the PVC, all they are now telling me is that my PVC is not among those printed after all the time I have wasted. How can this people deny me of voting in the governorship election?”
A voter in Anaocha council area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that the bu- reaucratic method of distributing the PVC was discouraging and calledontheelectoralumpireto deploy more officers to fast-track the exercise.
In Njikoka, a resident, Mr. Anthony Atupulazi, who was unable to collect his PVC, said, “the PVC I got from the exercise before this recent one is still val- id but my name on the card has been wiped out. So, I applied for it to be reprinted; but now, they are saying they can’t find it”.
Charles Okafor, who transferred his voting center from Njikoka to Anaocha, expressed displeasure that his card was yet to be found after visiting the collection point several times. He added that such delay could stop him from voting as he may not come back for the card again.
However, only the INEC official, who managed to address Orient Daily at Anaocha local government area on the condition of anonymity, said proper awareness was created by the commission from the state to the grassroots level, and the collection was going smoothly.
According to her, there was no problem with the apathy experienced in the exercise as time frame given for the collection would be enough for every registered voter to collect his/her PVC since it would end on November 15, 2017.
A resident and chairman of a human rights organisation in the state, Civil Liberties Organization,CLO,ComradeVincent Ezekwueme said, “INEC should device a means of issuing PVC to peoplebygoingtotheirrespective homes”.
Hear him: “it is cumbersome to find the particular PVC for a voter and people suffer a lot waiting to collect it. They should possibly declare a public holiday to enable more voters come for the PVC collection. They say they start 8.00 am but as at 10.00 am they have not started and eligible voters will be there waiting”, Ezekwueme lamented.