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2023: INEC Vows Prosecution of Voters Card Buyers, Sellers

The police have said they will launch a manhunt for politicians procuring Permanent Voter Cards for the purpose of rigging the 2023 general elections, Punch reports.

This came as the Independent National Electoral Commission vowed that anyone caught buying or selling PVCs would be arrested and prosecuted, warning politicians and political parties that it would not condone any illegal acts.

The development is coming on the heels of reports that some politicians were buying up PVCs and inducing voters to harvest their Voter Identification Numbers.

The INEC National Commissioner overseeing the Federal Capital Territory, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Plateau states, Mohammed Haruna, had on Monday in Abuja raised the alarm that some politicians were buying PVCs ahead of the 2023 polls.

He also disclosed that two persons have been recently convicted for illegal possession of PVCs in Sokoto and Kano states.

But speaking on Tuesday, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Rotimi Oyekanmi, cautioned politicians that the 2023 elections would not be “business as usual.”

According to him, the introduction of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System will not allow for rigging and other electoral malpractices.

Instead of plotting to undermine the electoral process, Oyekanmi admonished the parties and their supporters to mobilise registered voters to vote for their preferred candidates on election day.

The commission stated, “Supporters of the competing presidential candidates for the 2023 general elections will help their respective candidates better if they spend the next two months before the polls to rigorously convince and mobilise registered voters across the length and breadth of Nigeria to vote for their preferred candidates than to continue smearing the reputation of the Independent National Electoral Commission with baseless conspiracy theories. It will not work.

“The commission is not a political party; INEC does not have a preferred candidate. We have been preparing for the 2023 polls since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, perfecting existing tools and introducing other innovations. These innovations are designed to ensure the integrity of the process and make it impossible for any politician or INEC Staff to compromise an election in favour of any candidate.

“Therefore, the insinuation that some politicians are buying Permanent Voter Cards to rig the 2023 general election is baseless because INEC has moved very far away from the period when the Incident Form could be used for that purpose on election day.’’

Oyekanmi recalled how some unscrupulous politicians took advantage of the incident form used during the 2015 and 2019 elections to rig the polls using illegally procured PVCs.

He noted, “Recall that for the 2015 and 2019 general elections, the commission used the Smart Card Reader to authenticate the PVC and accredit the voter on election day via his or her fingerprint and allowed the use of the incident form. Unfortunately, some politicians took advantage of this waiver, bought PVCs, gave them out to their acquired voters and sent them to polling units to vote, using the incident form.

“This was one of the reasons why the commission introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System for the 2023 general election. The BVAS has one significant advantage over the SCR: it accredits through fingerprint and facial recognition.

“So, if your fingerprint fails, certainly your face will not fail. However, if the BVAS rejects your face, it means you are not an authentic voter and will not be allowed to vote. You will be asked to leave the polling station immediately. You could also be arrested for impersonation.’’

To engender transparency, Oyekanmi disclosed that the electoral body introduced the Result Viewing Portal in 2020 to enable the upload of polling unit results in real-time, adding that the technology had been used in various off-season governorship elections.

“Besides, to engender transparency, the Commission introduced the INEC Result Viewing Portal in 2020, where individual polling unit results are uploaded on election day. We used the portal for the Edo, Ondo, Ekiti Osun, and Anambra off-season governorship elections. At the end of voting on election day, after the ballots have been counted and results announced, the Presiding Officer will take a picture of the result sheet – Form EC8A – and upload the same to the IReV portal before departing to the collation centre. Party agents and voters will witness this activity that is backed by law.

“So, for this 2023 election, it is one genuine voter, one vote. No PVC, no voting. No accreditation by BVAS, not voting. If you try to cause trouble at the polling unit because the BVAS rejects your fingerprint and face, the security agents around will arrest and prosecute you, according to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.

“Therefore, this general election will not be business as usual. If there are politicians out there still going about purchasing PVCs to use pseudo-voters on election day, they will not only be disappointed but arrested and prosecuted,’’ INEC warned.

Police vow arrest

Echoing the commission’s Riot Act, the Nigeria Police Force said it would work in tandem with INEC to track down perpetrators buying and selling PVCs.

The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said, “PCVs have never been displayed on any table in the market for sales…we will work with INEC to track down these perpetrators since INEC has more information about the development.”

In furtherance of the force’s plans to achieve free, fair, and credible elections in the country, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, on Tuesday, held a strategic meeting with all heads of operations of national security agencies in the country.

The parley which was held at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, aimed at further deepening inter-agency collaborative initiatives towards guaranteeing secure electioneering processes for the 2023 general election.

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Copyright 2022 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to  www.signalng.com and other relevant sources.

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