The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained that the printing of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for new registrants was being delayed by the cleaning up of the voters’ register.
The nation’s electoral body also said that it was ensuring that only genuine registrants are added to the voters’ register using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) for fingerprint and facial clean up.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this during his keynote address at the opening ceremony of a five-day induction retreat for INEC national commissioners in Lagos on Monday, said he was glad to report that the Commission has completed the ABIS for the first and second quarters of the CVR.
Yakubu said the Commission is meeting next week and the detailed dates and locations for the collection of PVCs will be announced.
He noted that the commission was encouraged by the response of citizens to the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, as it has recently pushed physical registration beyond the state and local government offices nationwide.
He said, “Millions of Nigerians have registered so far and we have been giving weekly updates of the progress of the exercise for the last nine months.
“The commission is aware that new registrants as well as those who applied for transfer or replacement of the PVCs will like to know when the cards will be available for collection.”
The INEC chairman also reassured Nigerians of INEC’s commitment to credible polls in 2023.
He said that the commission had concluded work on the Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and Election Project Plan for the 2023 general elections.
Speaking on the importance of the retreat, he said that the burden to conduct free, fair, credible, acceptable, and inclusive elections was upon the commission, hence the need for each commissioner to be ethical and knowledgeable.
Yakubu disclosed that INEC now had a full complement of 12 national commissioners, adding that the retreat would enable the new commissioners to learn, especially with the coming into force of the new Electoral Act 2022.
He further explained that the commission has introduced a number of new innovations that it needs to perfect ahead of the general election, hence the need to continuously engage with citizens and stakeholders.
“However, while these innovations and stakeholder engagements are critical to preparations for elections, we should bear in mind that equally critical to the conduct of successful elections is our credibility as election managers.
“Our impartiality, dogged adherence to rules, commitment to the sanctity of the ballot and sound knowledge of the electoral process are also critical,” he said.
“This retreat is important, especially coming shortly after we released the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 General Election in which party primaries are scheduled to commence next week and end on first week of June, that is between April 4 and June,” he added.
He said very soon, INEC will finalise work on the Regulations and Guidelines for elections taking into consideration the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
“The three documents will be published and presented to the public next April. May I also seize this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that we have identified the challenges associated with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during voter accreditation,” Yakubu said.
He said that in the recent bye-elections in six constituencies in four states of the federation across four geo-political zones, the BVAS functioned optimally in rural, sub-urban and urban areas of Cross River, Imo, Ondo and Plateau.
The INEC chairman said that the commission received no complaints from voters and no reports of glitches from observers in these bye-elections.
He assured that INEC would continue to perfect the system in the forthcoming by-elections and the end of tenure for governorship election in Ekiti on June 18 and Osun on July 16.
Yakubu noted that the commission is also working on the distribution of voters to polling units across the country, following the successful expansion of voter access to polling
Very soon, he said the Commission will roll out the plan for achieving a more balanced distribution of voters to the polling units.
As always, he also noted that the Commission will engage with stakeholders across the board to ensure a more participatory approach so that the exercise is seamless and voters will have a more pleasant experience at polling units on election day.
Yakubu also lauded the Development Partners for their support through the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) which has greatly facilitated this retreat.