•Says there is no change in number of polling units
By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
With 38 days to the general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that it has credible information that political actors are going round buying up permanent voter cards (PVCs), or financially inducing them to collect the Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) on their PVCs.
The INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this Monday in Abuja at the Quarterly Consultative Meeting with political parties, where the commission presented the 2019 voters’ register and electoral guidelines to the parties.
He said that as elections approach, the commission has to quickly finalise the guidelines and regulations for the general election, adding that it was important to have the political parties’ input at the meeting so that the electoral body could expeditiously finalise the document as well as the training for the polls.
Yakubu stated: “A new method of vote buying is being devised. We have received credible information that some partisan actors are now going round buying up PVCs from voters or financially inducing them to collect the Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) on their PVCs.
“In some instances, telephone numbers and details of bank accounts of voters have been collected. By collecting the PVCs, their intention may be to deprive the voters of voting since no one can vote without the PVC.
“By collecting their phone numbers and bank details, the intention is to induce voters by electronic transfer of funds to their accounts since it will be difficult to buy votes at polling units. By collecting the VINs, they may be acting on the mistaken notion that our system can be hacked into and the card readers somehow preloaded ahead of election and compromised.
“We want to assure Nigerians that we are aware of the new tricks. It is a futile effort. We will work with the security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws, including those who may be trying to compromise our staff responsible for making the PVCs available for collection by the legitimate voters.”
The INEC chairman reassured the political parties that there was no change in the number of polling units and voting points used for 2015 general election and the 2016 area council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), noting that any information to the contrary is utterly baseless and should be disregarded.
Yakubu also advised the leaders of political parties to start compiling the lists of party agents for submission not later than 14 days to the election, in line with the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general election.
He noted that the deadline for the presidential and National Assembly elections remains February 1, 2019, while governorship, state Assembly and FCT Area Council elections is February 16, 2019.
The chairman noted that the commission would schedule a Train-the-Trainer workshop for party agents, while also urging the political parties to nominate competent persons as master trainers capable of cascading the training to other party agents.
Yakubu said that after the mandatory display of voters register in all polling units nationwide for claims and objections from 6th -12th November 2018, the final register for the 2019 general election stands at 84,004,084 million voters.
A breakdown of the voters’ register revealed that South-south has 12,841,279 voters; South-east has 10,052,236 voters; South-west has 16,292,212 voters, North-west has 20,158,100 voters; North-east has 11,289,293 voters; while North-central has 13,366,070 voters.
Also, female voters constitute 47.14% which is 39,598,645 voters, while male voters constitute 52.85 % which is 44,405,439 voters.
The youth (18-35) constitutes 51.11% which is 42,938,458 voters; while middle age (36-50) voters constitute 29.97% which is 25,176,144; the elderly (51-70) constitutes 15.22%, which amounts to 3,100,971 voters; while the old (70+) constitutes 3.69% which equally amounts to 3,100,971 voters.
He stressed that the commission was encouraged by the number of PVCs that have been collected so far, but added that millions of cards are still yet to be collected, while also insisting that the commission would not allow the collection of PVCs by proxy.
Yakubu emphasised that the commission would use smart card readers for the general election, stressing that the function of the smart card reader during accreditation is to confirm, verify and authenticate the voter.
He explained: “If the fingerprint is not authenticated by the card reader but the PVC is confirmed as genuine and the voter’s personal details are consistent with manual register, he/she shall be allowed to vote.
“However, where the biometric authentication fails, the voter will be required to thumbprint a box next to his/her picture on the register and to enter his/her mobile telephone number before proceeding to vote.
“The separate Incident Form used in previous elections is now abolished. Similarly, the claim that the card reader has been enhanced to recapture voters’ fingerprints at polling units and automatically overwrite the biometric record on our database is untrue and should be disregarded.”
The INEC boss also said that the commission would keep very close watch on campaign finance of political parties and candidates as well as individual and group donations to campaign organisation, adding that the commission would discharge this regulatory responsibility diligently.