Akin Orebiyi is the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Lagos State. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, he stated point blank that it is impossible to score 100 per cent in the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards and more.
How ready are you for the elections?
Preparations for the forthcoming elections have not been easy but we are introducing a new method for all the eligible voters for the elections. INEC will be using the smart card reader to check the originality of each voter’s card, verify their details and check the time frame each voter would spend while voting.
How would the smart card reader be tested?
There would be on election day simulation. We simulated, presented a process as if we are voting on Saturday, March 28, 2015, whereas it was Saturday, March 7, 2015. We asked people to come to Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area, Ikeja, Lagos, where they voted as if it were March 28. We were there with some smart card readers which is similar to the one that would be used on the election day, with a register of voters also similar to the one to be used on election day. Then, we had some voters who stepped out one after the other to get their accreditation as if they were being accredited on the election day.
Why the choice of Onigbongbo, Ikeja?
We decided to pick this area because we have 24,638 people in that area and all their permanent voters cards have been delivered. About 14,578 PVCs have been collected in that area. That was why it was chosen.
Were the voters also allowed to make use of the thump print stamps?
No. They went through two stages which were, each voter swiped his/her PVC on the smart card reader in order to authenticate its originality. Any PVC not printed by INEC would not be authenticated.
The second step was the verification where each voter verified his personal information on the database. Here, they made use of their index finger or thump to verify the original owner of the voters’ card. However, if the information was not transferred, it means you are not the original owner of that PVC and the machine would decline it immediately.
Are you saying, those who have purchased these cards would not be able to use them?
Yes, because with all these accreditation exercise, it would show you are not the owner of the permanent voters’ card you are holding. There is no way such a person would be allowed to continue the election. Security personnel would take over from there.
We learnt only 3.7 million people have collected their voters card, why?
As we speak, 3.7 million is a huge number and the biggest in Nigeria. We honestly do not know what to do to ensure that everyone has his PVC. We have gone through the media, social media, also conducted town hall meetings to make them go out to collect their voter’s card. We have even taken it ‘nearest’ to them and that is the polling units. We still have a substantial number of cards from Abuja which should arrive by weekend. Once these cards are available, it will help mobilize more people to come out and collect their cards. We are also aware that it is not possible to have a 100 per cent collection anywhere in the country, especially in Lagos which is the commercial hub of this country and on account of its nature. People come and go because the movement here is more rapid than any other part of the country. So many people come into Lagos to do business and leave once they are through. People retire and go back to their villages. So, quite a number of people have also gone back home. So, we are not expecting 100 per cent collection. About 65 to 68 per cent have collected but we hope before the election day, we should have gotten about or over 70 per cent collection.
The rate of violence in Lagos is too high from one party to another. What kind of security assurance are you giving Nigerians during the elections?
I would like anybody to come out with evidence because if you talk about what happened in Oshodi, Lagos, it was a particular organization that had a problem which resulted into violence. It has not been directly related to any political organization or activity of any party. Perhaps, the atmosphere might have caused it. Apart from this, we are aware that security in Lagos should not be compared to any other because this is the most populous state. The security agencies in the state are really on top of the situation. I take my time to meet with them regularly, so this would be a success.
We have a political party monitoring department that gets in touch with us about their days of rally and campaigns. So, the moment we know this, we inform the security department who send their men to these venues to maintain peace and order. So, we intend to also maintain this during the main elections. Where we usually have disturbances are at the suburbs where a few people come together privately to campaign for their own candidate and such people take risks because no security personnel was informed.
How are you handling the cases of those who have been told that they do not have PVCs?
We are aware of people who are very eager to vote but unfortunately the effort they are making is belated because last year was when they ought to have collected these cards. Last year, we announced to people to come check if their PVC is ready and to collect but majority did not show up at the polling units. The fact that you were able to vote with the Temporary Voters Card does not mean you would have the opportunity to use it in 2015. Many did not bear in mind that the law stipulates that INEC should be ready to present to the public a copy of the list of voters 30 days to the election.
We noticed that INEC officials do not make themselves available at some centres, why?
INEC officials are not present at polling units every day because we are waiting for the remaining 1.7 million PVCs from Abuja but at the moment, you can only get your Permanent Voters Card at the local government not the polling centres. Also, we cannot afford the payment for the officials at the polling centres because we did the logistics and we spend over N1 million per day.
What about the physically challenged voters?
The priority voting system would be given to some designated group like the pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. For those who are visually impaired, we have made some ‘Braille copies’ of the electoral papers which would enable them vote independently for the candidate of their choice. This is the first time such would be done and we hope it would be successful. Also, for the albino, provision of special glasses would be available and people would be there to give them special guidelines.