By Our Correspondent
Cross River State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Okey Ezeani on Monday in Calabar said the shifting of the general elections is good for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as it gives the electoral body ample time to address some hitches that have hampered the distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) across the country.
Ezeani stated this when he paid a courtesy visit on Governor Liyel Imoke to brief him on the level of preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the March 28 and April 11 rescheduled polls.
The REC, who also used the opportunity of the visit to demonstrate to Imoke and members of the Cross River State Executive Council how the Voter Authentication System, otherwise known as Card Reader works, disclosed that some Permanent Voter Cards belonging to the electorate in the state were recently found in a consignment sent to Kebbi State.
“My colleague in Kebbi called me and said that they found some boxes of PVCs belonging to Cross River State in Kebbi and there are similar cases regarding some states as well. These are some of the issues plaguing INEC.”
He also disclosed that the Commission in the state was yet to take delivery of PVCs for some polling units in Yakurr, Calabar South, Calabar Municipality and Bakassi council areas.
Ezeani, therefore lauded the rescheduling of the elections, saying “the postponement of the elections is a plus because it will afford us ample time to fix some of the things we were not able to get right.”
On the percentage of PVCs distributed so far in the state, the REC offered: “When I came to Cross River State, the percentage of collection was running between 60 and 73 percent and after meeting with my staff, we set out target and today we have attained 82 percent distribution in the state.”
Commenting on his alleged relationship with Governor Imoke, Ezeani said: “Even before I set my foot in Cross River State, I was already being castigated and it’s quite unfortunate that such an allegation was leveled against me but I was not deterred by this action.”
Responding, Governor Imoke who thanked the REC for the visit, however, charged INEC to ensure a hundred percent distribution of PVCs in the state and the country as a whole before the elections so that no one is disenfranchised on the grounds of non-availability of PVCs.
Imoke said it was also obvious from the disclosures made by the REC, that INEC was not ready for the polls, and as such the postponement was therefore, a blessing for the electoral body and the country.
His words: “I thank you for the effort at improving on the number of PVCs collected in the state from 66 percent to 82 now, even though you must try and achieve 100 percent collection before the elections so as not to disenfranchise anybody.
“The constitution provides that every registered voter has the right to vote. It does not provide for the presentation of PVCs before exercising that right. So we urge that you try as much as possible to achieve 100 percent PVCs distribution, otherwise, it will appear that INEC will be responsible for disenfranchising registered voters and this could have legal consequences and call to question the integrity of the process.”
According to the governor, “It is critical that the right is not guaranteed by the PVC. PVC is an added technology to facilitate voting, but if I’m registered, I should enjoy that right to vote with or without a PVC, but if you want me to use a PVC which I have no objection to, then you should please make sure that I have access to my PVC. My not having access to my PVC should not deprive me of my right to my civic responsibility of voting.”
Warning on the implications of INEC not getting it right, Governor Imoke said: “I suspect that if we don’t get it right, it will constitute a matter for litigation. It is better we ensure that the right thing is done and let the individuals themselves be the ones to say ‘yes, I have the right, but I have decided not to exercise that right. But when it is the other way round, then we may have serious issues with post-election litigation.”
The Governor said based on the disclosure by the REC on some hitches being experienced by the electoral body, “I want to say that the delay in 6 weeks was a blessing not just to INEC but to the nation. I think that the security challenge that would have followed from conducting the elections without preparedness is something that should be left to imagination.”
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