Despite the perceived flaws in the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), research shows that as much as 81% of registered voters have collected their PVCs. The number of those that collected their PVCs however varies from state to state and region to region.
The tenth edition of the CLEEN Foundation Security Threat Assessment (STA) analysis of key trends that could pose threat ahead the rescheduled elections coming up on March 28 and April 11 while indicating increased preparedness of the electorate to participate in the election via collection of their PVCs and willingness to vote however also shows that the seemingly skewed distribution / collection of the PVCs could pose possible security risks before, during and after the elections. The STA is an analysis of key happenings in the country in the run up to the March and April general elections and is an update of trends recorded ahead of the general elections as at March 15, 2015.
Among factors the STA identified that could trigger violence include: issues bothering on the distribution of Permanent Voters Card (PVC); hate speeches by political parties and their candidates; how security agencies respond to identified threats to the election; perceived partisanship of security institutions; the growing emergence of alternate security arrangements; the franchise of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)/ Boko Haram insurgency; and manipulation and vote rigging.
Issues on distribution of PVCs
According to the STA, the total collection rate of PVCs nationwide as at March 12, 2015 stood at 81.22%. Nevertheless, the report also showed that the collection of PVC varied from state to state. For instance Jigawa and Gombe States have the highest collection rate of 96%, while Lagos and Ogun States have the lowest of 49% and 64% respectively.
A breakdown shows that Abia State with a total of 1,396,162 registered voters have 1,177,520 or 84.34% PVCs already collected; Adamawa 1,559,012 registered voters has 1,381,571 or 88.62% of PVCs already collected; Akwa-Ibom with 1,680,759 voters has 1,587,566 PVCs or 94.46% collected; Anambra 1,963,173 registered voters and 1,658,967 or 84.50% of the PVCs already collected; Bauchi 2,054,125 voters and 1,778,380 representing 86.58% of the PVCs already collected and Bayelsa with 610,373 registered voters and 546,372 representing 89.51% already collected.
Others include Benue with 2,015,452 voters and 1,607,800 or 79.77% of the PVCs collected; Borno with 1,934,079 voters on the INEC register and 1,407,777 or 72.79% of PVCs collected; Cross River 1,175,623 with 963,929 or 81.99% PVCs collected; Delta 2,275,264 registered voters and 1,921,627 or 84.46% of PVCs collected; Ebonyi 1,074,273 registered voters and 848,392 or 78.97% of PVC collected and Edo 1,779,738 registered voters and 1,218,734 or 68.48% of PVCs collected.
In Ekiti, out of 732,021 registered voters, 511,790 or 69.91% have collected their PVCs; Enugu out of 1,429,221, 1,223,606 or 85.61% have collected their PVC; in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja out of 881,472 registered to vote, 569,109 or 64.56% have their PVCs; in Gombe out of 1,120,023 registered, 1,069,635 or 95.50% have collected their PVCs; Imo State out of 1,803,030 number of people registered 1,707,449 or 94.70% have collected the PVCs; Jigawa has 1,831,276 registered voters of which 1,756,320 or 95.91 have collected their PVCs. In Kaduna out of 3,407,222 registered 3,174,519 or 93.17% have collected the PVCs; in Kano out of 4,975,701 registered voters 4,112,039 or 82.64% have collected their PVCs and in Katsina out of 2,827,943 registered 2,620,096 representing 92.65 have collected their PVC.
Others are Kebbi 1,470,648 registered voters of which 1,372,630 or 93.34 have collected PVC; Kogi out of 1,350,883 registered 926,013 or 68.55% have collected the PVC. Kwara has 1,142,267 names on the INEC register of which 884,996 or 77.48% have collected the PVC. In Lagos of the 5,822,207 prospective voters only 3,767,647 or 64.71% have their PVC; In Nasarawa out of 1,242,667 registered 1,048,053 or 84.34% have the PVC’ Niger out of 2,014,317 about 1,682,058 representing 83.51% have collected the PVC. The remaining states of Ogun show that out of 1,829,534 registered 904,647 or 49.45% have collected the PVC; Ondo out of 1,524,655 about 1,110,844 or 72.86% of the PVCs have been collected. Osun has 1,030,051 or 73.20% of the 1,407,107 total registered voters with their PVC. Oyo out of 2,415,566 prospective voters 1,639,967 or 67.89% have their PVC; Plateau has 2,001,825 resisted voters of which 1,508,585 or 75.36% have their PVC; Rivers out of 2,537,590 registered 2,127,837 or 83.85 have their PVC; Sokoto out of 1,611,929 voters 1,527,004 or 94.73% have PVC; Taraba out of 1,340,652 registered 1,270,889 or 94.80 have collected the PVC; Yobe out of 1,099,970 registered 824,401 or 74.95 have collected the PVC and in Zamfara out of 1,495,717 registered voters 1,435,452 or 95.97 have collected the PVC. These statistics obtained from INEC is as at March 15, 2015. Some political interests are already insinuating that the distribution / collection of the PVC may have been deliberately designed to give some political interests ascendancy over others.
Vote rigging/ issues on card readers
Vote rigging or perceived rigging is also identified as a major factor that could trigger of violence during and after the election. Although INEC has sought to forestall the likelihood of rigging through biometric verification and use of card readers, the challenges recorded in the recent field pre-test have left mixed feelings among the citizenry.
The card readers were adopted by the electoral commission to check rigging and impersonation, some Nigerians have expressed concern that the country might end up in a scenario where there would not be enough time to use the technology and it would be jettisoned and the elections would be conducted as previous ones. In Plateau State for instance, Governor Jonah Jang has dragged the INEC to court on behalf of himself and several citizens of the state that are yet to be given their PVCs. This is viewed more as a deliberate attempt by INEC to disenfranchise these eligible voters. There are other groups agitating for a discontinuance of the card readers in the coming election.
But there are also fears that the election may be rigged without the card readers. For instance in Taraba State the research observed that voters in many local communities were lured into giving out their PVCs in anticipation of either securing employment opportunities with the Federal Government or bank loans with the PVCs allegedly serving as collaterals. In Adamawa State, some youths allegedly posing as INEC officials were said to have retrieved PVCs from individuals for ‘rectification of problems’ associated with the cards and then disappeared with them. In Ogun State INEC reported that 555 PVCs belonging to deceased people were discovered in the state after the commission displayed the names of those that were yet to collect their PVCs.
With the card readers these stolen cards cannot be used by those who acquire them even as the original owner would also have been disenfranchised. Already, the citizenry have been made aware that every voter’s biometric will be verified before he / she is allowed to vote. In Lagos some stolen PVCs were reportedly returned during a sensitization meeting workshop in the state.
Campaign Hate Speech and Acts of Violence
The intensity of the hate and inciting speeches coming from the campaigns of the major political parties has also been identified as capable of making the 2015 election violent. According to the STA “Political parties, especially the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) seem to have reached their climax level in terms of campaigns and strategies to win elections across the country. Many of these campaigns and strategies are thought to be unethical and violate the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) Codes guiding political campaigns.”
The STA team has therefore called on APCON, BON/ NBC and the Press Council to monitor the campaigns being reeled out by the political parties to ensure that they do not promote hate or incite violent conduct.
The alleged partisan control and use of security institutions including the Police, Military and the department of State Services (DSS) also referred to as State security Service (SSS) against the opposition are also identified as major threat to security.
The manner in which the security agencies react to identified threats could also leave lasting consequences on the election. For instance, the Nigerian military has made impressive progress towards dislodging the Boko Haram insurgents from the North East and ensuring that those areas previously occupied by the insurgents are safe for election new threats are still emerging especially in the North Central and Middle Belt with resurgence of violence between Fulani herdsmen and villagers.
There are also threats from the subsisting ethno-religious conflict, rural banditry and cattle rustling are sources of concern in the North Central zone and may play out in the elections. The sudden rise of hitherto dormant groups such as the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) among others and the role they could play may also constitute a threat to the elections.
For instance the OPC insists that Professor Jega the INEC chairman must be removed before the conduct of the election. MASSOB on the other hand has threatened that election will not be conducted in the South East of Nigeria. All these are volatile situations that security agencies must have to deal with before; during and after the election and the way they handle them will have direct bearing on the election.
Some potential voters registered in IDP camps in Nigeria, also PVC distribution continuous with advocacy being made to IDP camps. However, many IDPs who cannot return to their places of registration may not be able to vote thus making the PVC collection futile.
Also, just recently the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-General Kenneth Minimah said despite the successes recorded by the military in liberating those areas previously held by Boko Haram that full democratic governance could hardly be restored before the election to allow the people exercise their voting rights. The COAS made the statement after a Security Council meeting convened by President Goodluck Jonathan to review the situations in the liberated communities of the North East ahead the presidential election. To many analysts, the statement has created another cloud of uncertainty over whether the elections will hold on their rescheduled dates of March 28 and April 11 or not. This fear is premised on the assumption that a presidential election cannot be validly held if the liberated communities in the North East are disenfranchised by elections not being conducted there.
In all the survey said that for peaceful elections, NEC needs to intensify awareness campaign on the modalities for IDPs to vote especially for those who are outside of formal IDP camps as well as those who are presently outside their state of registration; the commission in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency and the civil society also need to as a matter of urgency intensify efforts on voter education and civic education programmes that fully educate the citizens as to why and how they must vote with the PVC.
The STA also charged the electoral commission to endeavour to make supplementary card readers available and accessible to polling units on election days to avoid unnecessary delays in the accreditation process. It said the challenges observed in the pre-test exercise should be immediately rectified and the adequately public sensitized. INEC will also need to collaborate with security agencies especially under the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to provide adequate security for the commission before, during and after the polls.
The political parties need to respect the Abuja Accord on violence-free elections. But more importantly, the full force of the law should be brought to bear on all perpetrators of violence to serve as deterrence to others.