On Tuesday, 17th January 2023, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), spoke at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, on various issues including Lessons from the 2019 General Elections, Preparations for the 2023 General Elections and more specifically on Electoral Planning, the Electoral Legal Framework, Voter Registration and Permanent Voters Cards (PVC), Election Technology, Expansion of Voter Access to Polling Units, Inclusive Election, among many others.

The INEC Chairman said, “In the one-year period of the CVR, 12,298,944 new voters were registered out of which 9,518,188 were validated after a thorough clean-up of the data.” Prof Yakubu added that ‘Nigerian electoral law provides that voters require voters cards (Permanent Voters Cards – PVCs) to be able to vote. Following the clean-up of the register, the cards of new voters and old voters who transferred their voting locations or made corrections to their personal details such as names, dates of birth, addresses etc. have been reprinted and made available for collection. National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, assured Nigerians that the commission “printed 13,868,441 PVCs for all new valid registrants as well as applicants for transfer or replacement.”

With less than five weeks to the Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for 25 February, there are still millions of uncollected PVCs and the Commission is struggling with the collection process across 8,809 ward centres. INEC, at the beginning of January, said that no fewer than 6.7 million Nigerians were yet to collect their permanent voter cards less than eight weeks before the general elections. And in the absence of data to track PVC collection, it is difficult to ascertain the level of progress made.

The INEC State Offices in Lagos and Edo are the only states that have provided updates on who has collected PVCs and the number of collected PVCs. No one seems to be able to answer the question as to why many Nigerians are unable to find their PVCs despite having their details on the Voters Register. PVC collection will continue till 22 January 2023 at the ward level, and 29 January 2023 at the INEC LGA Offices. Across the ward centres, citizens are asked to show their slips from when they registered or transferred or check the INEC Voters Online Portal to retrieve their details in order to ensure the process is as seamless as possible. In his address at Chatham House, the commission’s chairman added that ‘state offices of the Commission have also been directed to review the procedure and remove any bottlenecks and deal with sundry allegations of extortion by staff, inducement of officials by registered voters seeking to collect their cards and discriminatory issuance of PVCs.’

Per recent SBM data, only 30% of voters were able to get their PVCs the first time they tried, indicating multiple pick-up attempts up to five times. Unless there is a significant upsurge in PVC collection and reduced bottlenecks in collection attempts, INEC may have to either continue the PVC collection exercise beyond 29 January 2023 or even further devolve the process to the various polling units to bring the exercise closer to the Nigerian citizens.