By Okon Bassey in Uyo
About six months to the conduct of the 2019 general elections, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Igini, has decried the response of electorate in the state to the collection of their Permanent Votersâ€™ Card (PVC).
In an interview in Uyo, the state capital, Igini said the response of registered voters to collect their PVCs to enable them participate in the election of candidates of their choice was poor.
The REC hinted that a total of 132,078 votersâ€™ cards comprising the old and new Permanent Votersâ€™ Card had not been collected in the state.
He explained that out of the 127,267 new PVCs received by the commission and distributed across the state, only 12,881 have been collected, leaving an outstanding of 114,386; while out of 18,541 old PVCs, received and distributed, only 849 have been collected, leaving an outstanding of 17,692.
According to him, over seven million PVCs were yet to be collected nationwide wondering how the electorates would cast their votes less than 224 days to the commencement of the elections across the country without their PVCs.
Igini frowned that even with the campaigns run in the media on the issue, many people in Uyo, the state capital with the highest number of polling units were yet to collect their PVCs.
He charged political parties in the state to employ the strategy used to persuade the electorates registered during the Continuous Votersâ€™ Registration exercise to also remind them to visit INEC offices for the collection of their PVCs.
â€œWith respect to the level of Permanent Votersâ€™ Card collection and registration exercise in Akwa Ibom State in particular, there are two broad categories:
â€œWe have the PVCs that we have produced prior to the 2015 elections up to the time of the commencement of the new Continuous Voter Registration on the 27th of April last year. These Permanent Votersâ€™ Card of 2015 till date which we refer to as the old PVC, the level of turnout is very poor.
â€œIn Akwa Ibom State, we still have a total of 18,541 old permanent votersâ€™ card, out of which we have only distributed 849, leaving a total of 17,692 still uncollected. Similarly, of the new set of PVCs, it may also sadly interest you to know that out of the 127,267 PVCs, we have only distributed 12,881, leaving a total of 114,386 PVC uncollected in this stateâ€, he stated.
Urging political parties and the candidates to begin to endear themselves to the electorates so as to secure their votes, he stressed that there will be election in the entire polling unit in the state.
The REC warned that the practice of snatching of ballot boxes and result sheets would not be tolerated, and where such incidences were to happen, the elections in that place would be cancelled.
â€œAs at today, we have barely six months to the 2019 elections. We have less than 224 days to the opening of the polls in the entire 2,980 polling units that are domiciled in the 329 wards of the 31 local government areas of Akwa Ibom state where election on the 16th February â€“ National Assembly and the Presidential election will open and thereafter, on the 2nd of March we will be having the governorship and the 26 State Constituency election in Akwa Ibom.
â€œHere in Akwa Ibom State, the people contesting for office should do well enough to go and campaign, endear themselves to the electorates because in this state, there will be election in the entire polling unit.
â€œIn this state, nobody should ever think of snatching of ballot boxes or ballot papers because anywhere that ballot boxes or ballot papers are snatched, it is immediately cancelled.
â€œNo result can ever emanate from a polling unit(s) or wards or local governments where ballot papers or results are snatched and taken to anywhere to produce results that will ever be accepted by the commission,â€ he added.