As Nigerians prepare to go to the electoral polls in the 2023 and elect a new Government, they are again facing another challenge of getting their Personal Voters Card (PVC) done on time, whose registration is meant to expire on the 30th of June (Although this may be extended as lawmakers look to extend the date by a couple more weeks). This year’s PVC process also shows cracks in Nigeria’s identification systems and unintentionally gives room to non- Nigerians to secure PVC’s, proving a point that obtaining a PVC is more of a security threat to Nigeria than a necessity.
So far, this year’s PVC process has shown poor INEC staff control, overwhelmed workforce and machines, staff demanding bribes, and much recently, the attack on Nigerian traders of South-Eastern extraction in Lagos state by thugs as they closed their shops earlier this month to go register their PVCs.
There are 3 main contenders for the Presidential election in 2023. The first is Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), former Governor of Anambra state who has gotten the interest of young Nigerians, and built a strong online support during the election period. He has also been influenced by years of speaking on National TV about Nigeria’s economic fiscal health, promising to take Nigeria to an era of increased economic productivity to fight unemployment.
The second is Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President of the Federation, and ex- Presidential candidate of the PDP during the 2019 elections who has promised to focus his administration if elected, on restructuring Nigeria and Private sector-led growth. And finally Bola Tinubu, the former Governor of Lagos state and the “spiritual leader” of the leading Party, APC. In a document viewed by Nairametrics, he promised to also focus on economic development, promising to build 15000 MW of electricity production if elected.
However, in the course of getting a PVC, one revelation that is obvious to any Nigerian paying attention to the process is, that Nigerians DO NOT NEED a Personal Voter’s Card. Secondly, there are no background or security checks asked by INEC officials while getting registering for their cards, which basically ensures the threat of non-Nigerians being able to vote at the elections.
Reaching out to the INEC centre in the Garki area of the FCT, Nigerians began queuing up for the process as early as 5 am. INEC officials then demand that they write their names which would be called out by numerical order. However, when the registration process starts by 9 am, the system turns out to be partly adhered to, when the “Nigerian pressure hits”.
In early 2021, the Nigerian Government warned that Nigerians who have not had their phone numbers linked to their National Identification Numbers (NIN), would have their numbers barred, an exercise that forced Nigerians to spend days also queuing up at centres to save their phone lines. Those who were lucky to have their lines linked already (through their Bank Verification process, which was another torturous process), did not have to go through much hassle, However, with a BVN, and an NIN linked to your phone numbers, Nigerians ALREADY have a representation system which is good enough to be used for voter accreditation.
By 9am at the INEC office, it became glaring that any Nigerian with a BVN and an accredited NIN, does not need to spend 8 hours of their day getting a PVC, which has zero link with their already accredited NIN which again as stated, is linked to their BVNs and Phone numbers.
An INEC staff overwhelmed by the number of new arrivals creates a new line of people who should be able to do their registration. Basically, if you came before 6am, and are the lucky few to be within numbers 1-100, it does not matter anymore, as you have to be in a new line with others who just came.
After standing under the sun and rain for close to 5 hours to get your PVCs done, INEC suddenly remembers the list they gave you earlier in the day. While inside, you are given a form to fill, which indicates where your polling unit is and many others; however, one missing key in the form is any sort of identification number linked to an International passport, BVN, NIN or even driver’s license, ( basically, the entire point of waiting to get a PVC done is create an entirely new identity for a Nigerian not linked to any other identity, which can be very useful in the wrong hands).
The data capture phase requires the voter to have their pictures taken, and respond to questions, including date of birth, place of birth, address, schooling, and phone number, WITH ZERO PROOF OF IDENTIFICATION, requested.
To conclude, a non-Nigerian who lives in Nigeria, can queue up with the rest of us, get into the INEC offices and get a PVC, which means the non-Nigerian can also vote and influence Nigerian elections due to the fact that no form of proof of identification is requested by INEC staff. This sort of access can be risky and also be used for voter manipulation. Nigerians have gone through various torturous processes, to get their BVNs and NIN which are linked, and do not need a PVC which carries a major security threat for Nigeria during this period of high insecurity.