Preliminary Observers' Statement On The Distribution Of Permanent Voters Card In Osun State
Citizen Observers under the ‘Thumb It Right’ campaign of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Youth Alliance on Constitution & Electoral Reform (YACORE) and Partners for Electoral Reform (PER) are observing the ongoing distribution of the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in Ekiti and Osun states with the support of the Democratic Governance for Development Program of the United Nations Development Program. The distribution exercise commenced today Friday 7th March 2014 in Ekiti and Osun states respectively. We make the following observations based on our assessment of the exercise on the first day.
General conduct of the distribution of the exercise
Based on our observations, it is our respectful view that the distribution exercise commenced on an impressive note on the first day. In several places visited by our observers, the distribution exercise started early. Some locations recorded commencement of the exercise as early as 7:10am. It is visible from the proceedings of the day that the Independent National Electoral Commission is making efforts to improve on its ability and capacity to manage elections. Ensuring the valid voter register was displayed in all polling units for claims and objections is highly commendable. However, the process was still fraught with some challenges and inconsistencies ranging from poor logistics, insufficient distribution officers, non-conformity with permanent voter card distribution guidelines etc.
Insufficient personnel for the distribution exercise
Contrary to the guidelines released and published by INEC, there was shortage of distribution officers in most polling units observed. We authoritatively note that only one NYSC member was deployed to most polling units covered by our observers. Field reports clearly reveal that security agents like the Police, political party agents and individuals were drafted in most polling units to assist the NYSC members in distributing the PVCs. In some wards, there was total absence of security agents while in others one security agent was noticed alternating between two to three polling units. We are also concerned that security agents deployed to secure the polling units in several instances engaged in responsibilities outside their purview; distribution of PVCs, aiding citizens to check their names on the display list and re-echoing of names called by corps members.
We therefore emphatically submit that one corps member acting as a distribution officer cannot manage the distribution of the PVCs. We also note that Supervisory Distribution Officers (SDOs) were insufficient as most distribution officers undertook their tasks without any form of supervision. We call on INEC to comply with the PVC distribution guidelines that clearly provides that two distribution officers shall be deployed to a polling unit for the exercise. The security agents manning the polling units should be cautioned against usurping the duties of the distribution officers.
Non serialization of PVCs in alphabetical order
We observe that the permanent voter cards were not arranged in alphabetical order as stated in the INEC guidelines. This however raised tension and chaos resulting to long debates and disagreement between prospective voters and distribution officers. Based on the guidelines, the Electoral Officer of each local government is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the cards are arranged in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, this did not happen as distribution officers informed our observers that the cards were not arranged alphabetically at the point of issuance and deployment. We call INEC to hold the electoral officers accountable and compel them to respect the guidelines and discharge their duties.
We note also that the inconsistencies in compliance with the guidelines are indicative that the Distribution Officers were not properly trained for the exercise. We observe that issuing guidelines on a continuous basis without due compliance has become the norm in our electoral process. This is counter-productive and it undermines the credibility of INEC and our electoral process.
Logistics for Distribution Officers and Supervisors
We are concerned with the poor logistics arrangement for the welfare needs of the distribution officers and INEC officials, most especially the hardworking and patriotic NYSC members. INEC should immediately provide befitting logistics (accommodation, transportation, refreshment and security) for its officials to forestall possibility of compromise, poor handling and mismanagement of the distribution process.
Non distribution of PVCs
We can confirm that there was no distribution of the PVCs in Ward 4, Polling Unit 7 LEA Primary school, Gbobamu/Ilolu in Irepodun LGA of Osun state. We call on INEC to properly investigate this incident and take appropriate measures to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised.
Based on figures at the end of the distribution exercise on day one, the voters turn out was above average. Majority of the polling units registered good turnout of voters who came out to retrieve their PVCs. We call on political parties to caution their members and agents to desist from making attempts to disrupt the distribution process. We also call on INEC to provide reliable hotlines for reporting incidents at the local government level for the purposes of providing prompt institutional responses to challenges arising from the exercise.
Head, Research, Policy & Advocacy
Chair, Partners for Electoral Reform
Bukhari Mohammed Bello Jega
Deputy National Coordinator, YACORE
South-West Zonal Coordinator, YACORE