WorldStage Newsonline– The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos State has confirmed a total of 1,091,157 old Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) are still uncollected by their owners in the state.
The commission also said that after two months it flagged off distribution of 34,242 newly printed PVCs for new registrants, only 6, 382 applicants had come for collection across the state.
Mr Olusegun Agbaje, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, made this disclosure at the Stakeholders’ Meeting on Election with leaders of political parties, on Tuesday in Ikeja.
Agbaje, who described as worrisome the low rate of PVCs collection across the 20 local government areas, added that the turnout for the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) was not impressive at the start.
This development, he said, puts the state at fifth position nationwide in the number of new registered voters.
He said: “The low rate of PVC collection in Lagos State is worrisome as only 6,382 PVCs out of 34,242 received from the Commission’s Headquarters for the first and second quarters CVR had been collected by their owners. This is just 18.6 per cent.
“Similarly for the old PVCs, a total of 1,091,157 are still uncollected by their owners.
“In view of the foregoing, I want to strongly urge you to continue to assist the Commission in mobilising the eligible citizens residing in Lagos State that are yet to collect their PVCs to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the ongoing collection of PVCs at the INEC LGA offices where they registered to collect their PVCs.
“As anyone without the PVC cannot vote during any election.”
The INEC chief, who hinted that the June 30 deadline for the ongoing CVR would slightly be extended, cautioned political leaders against do-or-die politics.
According to him, this has become stock in trade of some politicians who want to win elections by all means including violence, malpractices, thuggery and all other election vices.
Agbaje said that INEC was more worried that Lagos State was one of the most violent states during the last primary elections with five people reportedly killed in two local fovernment areas.
“We cannot continue like this. Therefore, all hands must be on deck with the political party leaders at the forefront to make Lagos State one of the most peaceful states during electioneering campaigns and elections in 2023.
“The political class must change her do or die attitude to good conduct in politics by doing away with all election vices including destroying the bill boards of opponents, using vulgar languages during campaigns and using thugs to harass political opponents.
“It is important to stress that the inability of the political parties to imbibe the culture of genuine internal party democracy is unhealthy for the electoral process.
“If we must achieve our collective goal of building a durable democratic culture, political parties must embrace the culture of sincere internal party democracy while also avoiding all forms of contraventions to the extant laws,” he said.
Agbaje, who decried voter apathy, urged the party leaders to increase political awareness.
He said that increased political education would no doubt increase the PVC collection rate and check voter apathy that had characterised past elections in the state.
According to him, only 1,156,590 out of 6,570,291 registered voters (17.6 per cent) participated in the 2019 General Election in Lagos State while only 104, 405 out of 1,343, 448 registered voters (7.8 per cent) participated in the 2020 Lagos East Senatorial District bye-election.
Agbaje, who noted that INEC was working assiduously round the clock toward ensuring the successful conduct of the 2023 elections, said that the commission would continue to focus on its mandate, guided by its mission and vision.
He said: “The Commission will equally as usual, remain an unbiased umpire in dealing with all political parties in Lagos State.
“It is imperative to once more enjoin all stakeholders to play strictly by the rules as part of our collective efforts towards ensuring the successful conduct of the general election.
“It is pertinent to note that the Commission has also taken a bold step in her ongoing efforts to inject technological impetus into the electoral system and has further strengthened the voting process for the conduct of very free, fair, credible and acceptable elections by introducing the Bi-modal Voter Authentication System (BVAS).”
He said in Lagos State, 640,786 eligible voters had done the online registration before it ended on May 30, but as at June 20, only 338,955 had completed their registration.
He said that the commission was making frantic efforts toward ensuring that all eligible citizens were captured before the end of the CVR.
Speaking, Mr Philip Aivoji, the Chairman, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Lagos State, called on INEC to further decentralise the CVR and PVCs distribution.
According to him, centralisation of CVR and PVCs can disenfranchise millions of eligible voters.
Aivoji urged INEC to compile and publish list of uncollected PVCs and engage political parties’ leaders in each local government to meet their owners.
Also, Mr Moshood Mayegun, the Deputy Chairman, APC in Lagos State, said that the party leaders were putting machinery in place to mobilise applicants.
He advised INEC to engage community associations.
Mr Ibrahim Adeoye, the State Organising Secretary of Young Progressive Party (YPP), called on INEC to embrace technologies fully in electoral processes,above the use of BVAS only.
This, he said, would help to curb stress in registration and electoral violence.
In his remarks, Mr Olusegun Mobolaji, Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Lagos State, said that INEC needed to do more in decentralisation of CVR and PVCs.
He pledged that party leaders would work with INEC.