The Abia Civil Society Network(ACSON), an umbrella of Human Rights and Pro-democracy groups based in Abia State, has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in her effort to ensure that all eligible voters exercise their civic rights in the forth-coming general elections in Nigeria, having fixed December 12th, 2022 to January 22nd 2023 for the collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC’s).
The network which is committed to upholding respect for the Rule of Law and protection of Human Rights in Abia State, cum Nigeria as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, also appreciated INEC’s recent resolution to devolve PVC’s collection exercise across the 8,809 registration/electoral wards from January 6th–15th, 2023.
The network described commission’s extension of PVC collection as a brave efforts, which were widely commended by Nigerians from all walks of life and other international observers, as many electoral stakeholders have been skeptical about the fulfillment of INEC’s promise to make sure that every registered and eligible voter in Nigeria to be in possession of his or her PVC before elections proper.
However, ACSON’s alleged that during its random visits to some electoral wards during the exercise, the network said to have uncovered that some INEC staff and/or field officials were reluctant to release the PVC’s to suit able voters, especially in Obingwa, Aba South and Aba North local councils.
In a statement signed by Convener, ACSON, Cassius Biachi Ukwugbe and Okoye Chuka Peter, Secretary, ACSON – the network accused some INEC staff or field officials of being compromised the goal of the exercise by collaborating with corrupted political party officials and their agents to divert bulk PVC’s to their affiliated parties for are ward, thereby denying in numerable eligible voters in Abia their rights to vote in 2023 general elections.
The full statement reads: “We also observed with dismay that PVC’s meant for some electoral wards in Aba South and mostly Aba North local councils, right from the commencement of the exercise were moved over to various undisclosed places in Obingwa West Constituency.
“Here voters who were eager to collect their PVC’s were made to travel to Obingwa, and undergo interview sessions and identified their political parties, and when such answers did not conform with that of the party officials and agents, the affected voters were asked to seek for their PVC’s elsewhere, there by hoarding their PVC’s and attempting to disenfranchise them from exercising their civic rights in the approaching elections.
“With all these recent happenings, Abia State is too tensed to be toyed with by any government institution oragency, especially when all eyes including electoral stakeholders are concentrated on these above-mentioned Local Government Areas (LGA’s) where these gruesome irregularities were recorded during the PVC’s distribution exercise.
“Since the total number of registered voters across the 17 LGA’s and in each
polling unit are already established and obtain by the various political parties, then it would be suicidal for INEC being the electoral management body to allow itself through her staff and/or field officials to be forced into such a mission with these political party officials and agents.
“Since INEC has already announced has announced that the distribution exercise of PVC’s after the January 15, 2023 would revert and continue in the various LGA’s offices till January 22, 2023, we at ACSON demand that INEC in collaboration with security agencies should urgently constitute a joint-committee to investigate and ascertain
reasons why their staff and/or field officials compromised the PVCs distribution exercise in these affected LGA’s for a reward.
“If such fact is established by this committee, the report of the committee should be made public and all indicted political office holders, officials or agent should be made to return the PVC’s in their possessions and further face justice for such wicked act.
“We belief such intervention will serve as an admonition to all political parties and forestall future recurrence of such criminal act.
“We at ACSON strongly posit that the success of this matter will go along way to advance the transparent and accountability stance of INEC, Abia state.
“Accordingly we urge INEC to humanely treat this issue without any fear or favour so that no eligible voter in Abia State will be disenfranchise in the approaching elections.