Road to 2023: INEC explains delay in distribution of PVCs, confirms fixing BVAS challenges

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From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has hinged the delay in the distribution of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) to new registrants and transfer applicants on the robust system of cleaning up the register to ensure that only genuine registrants are added to the voters register using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) for fingerprint and facial clean up.

Chairman of the Commission Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who made the disclosure, also confirmed that the Commission has found a permanent solution to the malfunctioning Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) ahead of the 2023 general elections.

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He announced that having completed the process, the Commission will fix the dates and venue, after the Commission’s meeting next week, on how the distribution of the PVCs will be done.

‘The Commission is encouraged by the response of citizens to the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise. Millions of Nigerians have registered so far,’ Yakubu stated.

‘The Commission is aware that new registrants, as well as those who applied for transfer or replacement of the PVCs, would like to know when the cards will be available for collection. The reason we have not made the PVCs available is because of the robust system of cleaning up the registration to ensure that only genuine registrants are added to the voters register using the ABIS for fingerprint and facial clean up.

‘I am glad to report that the Commission has completed the ABIS for the first and second quarter of the CVR. The Commission is meeting next week and the detailed dates and locations for the collection of PVCs will be announced.’

Speaking at the opening ceremony of a retreat for National Commissioners in Lagos, Prof Yakubu charged the participants to bear in mind that the conduct of successful elections is the credibility of election managers, adding: ‘Our impartiality, dogged adherence to rules, commitment to the sanctity of the ballot and sound knowledge of the electoral process.

‘We all, therefore, stand to learn a lot from this retreat, particularly with the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022. The Commission has also introduced a number of new innovations that we need to perfect ahead of the general election. Above all, we need to continuously engage with citizens and stakeholders.

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‘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.

‘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 in the first week of June i.e. 4th April to 3rd June 2022.

‘My third responsibility is to reassure Nigerians of our commitment to credible polls in 2023. The Commission has concluded work on the Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and Election Project Plan for the 2023 General Election.

‘Very soon, we 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 month i.e. April 2022.

‘May I also seize this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that we have identified the challenges associated with the BVAS during voter accreditation. 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 States.

‘We received no complaints from voters and no reports of glitches from observers in these bye-elections. We will continue to perfect the system in the forthcoming bye-elections and the end of tenure governorship elections in Ekiti State on 18th June 2022 and Osun State on 16th July 2022,’ he said.

Speaking further, he said: ‘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 units. Very soon, we will roll out the plan for achieving a more balanced distribution of voters to the polling units. As always, we 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.’

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