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Friday, February 3, 2023

CSOs warn INEC against disenfranchisement of voters –

On Wednesday, a coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) working on credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, backed by the Situation Room, warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against disenfranchising voters during the upcoming 2023 general election, This follows the hurdle faced by voters seeking to collect Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) across the country.

Stakeholders led by the Convenor, Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, Ene Obi, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu online tribune.

With just 30 days left until the 2023 general election, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room is deeply concerned about the state of the country. Last week witnessed Nigerians flocking to various constituencies to collect their PVCs in order to meet the deadlines for PVC collection at the constituency level.

“Similarly, political parties and their candidates are holding rallies in the federal states and election campaigns are intensifying. Among them, fuel shortages persist and the government intends to phase out fuel subsidies from April 2023.”

Taking all these into consideration, the coalition acknowledged that “there have been many complaints about the issue of the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) at the constituency level.

“Most complaints related to PVCs not being available to both old and new registrants, and there is no future collection date. In some constituencies, people were asked to return in February. There were also reports that INEC staff were not permanently present on wards during the drill Inside.

“In most states, crews tour from one ward to ward without a clear schedule for visiting wards, and when people show up, they experience absences. Edo State is an exception, the state issued A PVC collection schedule was developed and disseminated on social media so that registrants know where to collect their PVC and the collection dates.

“In accordance with the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) PVC allocation calendar, the allocation of local government areas for INEC offices will end on 29 January 2023.

“The Situation Room is concerned that the timetable offered to those who are required to return to collect their PVC is unrealistic and will lead to disenfranchisement.

“On 13th January 2023, the Situation Room called on the committee to extend ward-level collection until 5th February 2023 to allow more people to easily collect their PVCs, and to deploy more staff to ward centers to streamline PVCs. distribution and speed up the process.

“Based on the above premise, the Situation Room reiterates its call to INEC to reconsider the deadline of 29 January 2023 for the collection of PVC at the LGA level to accommodate the large number of Nigerians who have yet to collect PVC, not out of their own refusal but due to The committee gave various reasons as to why their PVC wasn’t printed.

“The extension will also give INEC time to print PVCs for many registrants whose PVCs were not printed.”

The CSO observed that the Commission, through its Election Project Program (EPP), indicated plans to conduct mock elections in some states to familiarize voters with the dual-modal Voter Authentication System (BVAS).

“In the 2015 general election, where smart card readers were first used nationwide, INEC conducted mock elections at 24 polling stations strategically selected from urban and rural communities across six geopolitical zones.

“This enables citizens to test new technologies introduced into the voting process. The Situation Room therefore calls on INEC to urgently set a date for conducting appropriate mock elections in locations including urban and rural settings, so that voters can see the functionality of BVAS in practice , and some experience with what to expect on Election Day.

“This will help INEC identify possible challenges and prepare to address them ahead of the election, especially in geopolitical areas that have never been used before.”

The CSO also expressed concern that the ongoing fuel shortage could affect the 2023 general election, noting that “Nigerians have been disproportionately affected by the ongoing fuel shortage and rising prices since 2022.

“The Situation Room is concerned about the impact this could have on transport and logistics during the election period.

“As the Commission expects to deploy more than 100,000 vehicles, including motorcycles and tricycles, to ensure that people and materials reach polling stations ahead of voters on Election Day, the Situation Room calls on INEC to ensure that this logistical arrangement is rethought to suit current realities, And if that hasn’t been done, because if it hasn’t been done, the election will be fast approaching.

“Therefore, the Situation Room calls upon the President and Minister of Petroleum, President Muhammadu Buhari to meet with oil marketers and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to provide a durable solution to the lingering fuel shortage ahead of the election.”

In reviewing the security situation across the country, civil society organizations mourned the violence witnessed by political parties and their candidates during the ongoing election campaign.

“Sadly, there have been some reports of violence in states like Rivers where all Progressive Congress (APC) rallies were disrupted after a double blast at the Rumu-Woji site on the mile shaft in Port Harcourt. Another incident occurred in Edo prefecture in Edo Central Local Government District’s 7th constituency, where a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally descended into chaos after shots were fired by political mobs, forcing supporters of the party to flee in fear.

“The Situation Room recalled that in September 2022, at the start of the political campaign, it called on political parties and citizens to cease inciting violence. Section 93(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 prohibits political parties and candidates from Threat of force or violence, directly or indirectly, to any person with the intent to compel that person to support or not support a political party or candidate.

“The Situation Room reminds political parties and candidates of the penalty for this offense under Section 93(2) of the Act. The Act provides that in the case of a candidate, upon conviction, the person shall pay a fine of up to N1,000,000 or 12 One month’s imprisonment. For the wrong party, a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and a fine of N1,000,000 for subsequent offenses.

“The Situation Room also observed some party leaders using abusive language and insults to discredit other candidates or parties. Pursuant to Section 92(2) of the Elections Act 2022, no or abusive, aggressive, slanderous, strong language, innuendo or innuendo that may provoke a violent response or emotion.

“At this point, the Situation Room urges candidates to focus on issues-based campaigning and possible solutions to the range of problems facing the country.

“The Situation Room calls on the Nigerian Police, the primary guardians of election security, to provide adequate protection for the proper and peaceful conduct of the rally.”

In a related development, the Situation Room noted that “INEC facilities continue to be attacked by arsonists despite previously raised concerns. INEC needs to identify areas where such attacks are likely to occur and liaise with security agencies to strengthen the These issue hotspots are monitored until the end of the election.

“This country cannot continue to lose people and election material ahead of elections. Security agencies should also investigate possible clues to previous attacks and apprehend the perpetrators of these despicable acts.

“As we draw ever closer to a decisive moment in Nigeria, the Situation Room reminds all political parties and their candidates of the Peace Agreement signed on September 29, 2022 and urges them to appeal to their supporters to order. Peace, Freedom and Credibility The need for elections in the United States cannot be overemphasized; regime heating should be avoided at all costs.

“The Situation Room also reminds the Nigerian Police of their commitment to protect life and property at all times, including providing security during the election campaign. Arrests related to any reported or witnessed disturbances are expected to result in court charges during this election season.

“Regarding PVC collection, INEC has committed to having PVCs ready in October and November 2022 for those who attended the final quarter of CVR but were unable to meet. This delay may be a knock-on effect of the unavailability of PVCs in 2023.

“The Situation Room therefore calls on INEC to reconsider its position on the PVC collection deadline. This will go a long way towards securing the Commission’s commitment to secure many Nigerians who are eligible to vote.”

read from return nigerian tribune

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