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Monday, May 27, 2024

Registered Voters Disfranchised By Flood And INEC Ask Nigerians To Elect Good Leaders

By: Patrick Obia
Thousands of Nigerians will not cast their ballots during the 2023 general elections due to the devastating flood across the country last year.
The flood which affected nearly all the states of the federation swept away homes and farmlands, killing several people.
The flood did not only bring hardship and anguish but would also cause the disfranchisement of many registered voters who lost their voter cards to the disaster.
Some victims of the flood in the South-South region of the country told CrossRiverWatch that the Independent National Electoral Commission did not make any arrangements for them to get fresh voter cards after the flood.
Ishioma Dickson, a businessman and a victim of the flood in Omoku town in Ogba/Egbema Local Government Area of Rivers State, said he was disappointed by the failure of INEC to replace their voter card after the flood.
“It is a very painful experience for this coming election for not having PVC and INEC could not give us a clear statement,” Dickson said. “They only told me it is after the election and from the look of things that is the only way now because nobody is registering anybody.”
He added that “I have candidates I really wanted to vote for but now the support is just verbal support, at least my one vote is enough to make up the figure and difference but now I will be just verbal supporter. It is a very painful experience for me.”
Another resident of Ogba/Egbema Local Government Area, Jane Banigo, a woman living with a disability who lost her property to the flood, said she intended to vote for candidates that understand what climate change is and how to tackle it but the flood swept away her voter card.
She expressed displeasure over what she described as incessant “dribbling” by INEC in the process of trying to get another card.
“I had the intention to vote during the election,” she said. “I went to the INEC local government to enquire on how to get another or alternative. They have been dribbling me, telling me to go and come back every time and me who is walking with clutches, how do I cope?”
In Agaba Community in Yenagoa in Bayelsa State, Eno Akpan, a pastor at Liberty Gospel Church, was also affected by the flood, including most of the community members who are predominantly farmers and fishers.
He said while the cost of living is still very high as a result of the negative effects of the flood, the state was completely cut off from the rest of the world during the flood.
The clergyman acknowledged that a good number of his congregation lost their voter cards.
“Some of my members have lost their cards but I sensitize them on the need to vote for credible candidates,” he said. “We have experienced a lot of things and I made that a point of duty not only to my congregation but go the extra mile to ensure we don’t experience these things again because we have made mistakes as a Nigeria.”
Another Pastor in Liberty Gospel Church, Abel Deriabebe expressed sadness about his lost PVC, noting that it would have made his preaching more effective if he would vote in the election.
“The condition of the election is that without your PVC, you cannot cast your vote and with the situation, we find ourselves we can’t vote,” Deriabebe said.
“For the presidential and other offices, Nigerians should choose wisely, someone who can lead us right,” he added.
In Ikom in Central Cross River, Kingsley Nkoro said that “When the water had cleared, the wallet holding my PVC, ATM card, and other ID cards as well as the file holding my credentials were washed away.”
He said upon visiting the INEC office, he was told nothing can be done until after the elections.
Also, Animi Gladys told CrossRiverWatch that she lost money alongside her PVC in the flood.
An APC bigwig in Calabar South, Cross River State who did not want to be mentioned told CrossRiverWatch that “funny enough not everyone you see has their PVC, like me who is part of the presidential campaign team in the State, I don’t have my PVC. I lost it in Bayelsa during the flood.
“I visited INEC when I returned and was told nothing can be done. Because of that, I hide when PVC is mentioned at party events, because I’m a respected member no one will insist on seeing the hard copy. I only present the one I had snapped.”
INEC Still Has A Long Way To Go – Stakeholders
INEC’s inability to provide voting alternatives to the victims of the flood has raised public uproar.
While victims of the flood say they have launched several complaints to the electoral umpire for a quick solution to the quagmire to no avail, stakeholders in some Niger Delta states say with this development, INEC still has a long way to go.
Comrade Godswill Enefe, Niger Delta-based activist told CrossRiverWatch that INEC had decided to make its registration and PVC collection too cumbersome instead of applying modern technology to make processes easy for Nigerians.
“INEC is still backward in the sense that who would have expected even when people lose their PVC, all you need to do is to go online and reprint.
“On the peculiar case of flooding victims, you would think INEC would have had the human face to what they are doing and set up an ad-hoc desk to carter for those areas that were ravaged by the flood so they can have a makeshift arrangement to see how they can get these persons to get their PVCs.” He said.
Similarly, the Advocacy Lead for We The People (WTP), Ukeme Ekong, urged INEC to be proactive in times of emergencies.
Ukeme who doubles as the Deputy Coordinator for Vote Not Fight, Election No Be Campaign, Cross River State posits that if banks can quickly issue Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards misplaced or damaged in a jiffy, INEC can achieve that.
She said nobody should be disenfranchised because a natural disaster happened adding: “PVC registration and collection shouldn’t be something that is done every four years. Let’s move our registration, collection, and voting electronically so that all these bottlenecks will be minimized if not stopped.
She added that “the flood should not be what will stop them from performing their civil rights, likewise, INEC should not stop them.”
INEC did not respond to CrossRiverWatch’s multiple requests for comment on the matter.
This investigation was supported by Civic Media Lab.


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