Activities at the Lagos State Governor’s Office and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were nearly paralysed yesterday as thousands of Lagosians vehemently protest over the shoddy distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards, PVC, in Lagos.
For many hours, visitors and government officials had hectic time before gaining entrance into the Lagos State Government House as the main entrance gate was barricaded by the residents, who demanded immediate extension of collection of the PVCs to enable them take part in their civic responsibilities.
After some hours, they were allowed to enter the Government House to express their dis satisfactions over shoddy preparation by the national electoral empire.
The protesters, under the aegis of The Nucleus Group, TNG were armed with series of placards chanting solidarity songs.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “We Lagosians detest rigging, give us our PVCs”;“Lagosians reaffirm one man, one woman, one vote, give us our PVCs, period,” “Jega warned, don’t act FG’s script in Lagos,” “We say no to Mago-Mago”; ‘Una must give us our cards,” “The totality of Agege Youth, women and men are demanding an extension for PVC collection”; “INEC, Agege demands more time for our PVC collection,”; Where is our 1.4 million PVC cards?”; “ We want free and fair election,” and “All Nigerians are equal.”
Spokesperson of the protesters, Comrade Ademola Odusanya alleged that INEC was planning to rig next year’s election, especially in states controlled by the All Progressive Congress, APC, which, according to him, inform the hoarding of the PVCs from getting to the people.
“ We hereby submit our hearty displeasure on the maltreatment and hardship which the Independent National Electoral Commission has subjected Nigerians to in the ongoing distribution of th Permanent Voter Cards in the state. We demand extension of the distribution of the PVC. We want INEC to increase its trained personnel to serve effectively in the densely populated polling boots.”
Comrade Odusanya also wanted INEC to address the issue of 9 mixed Local Government Areas and extend the working period from 8-6pm for the INEC personnel, even as he called for the reproduction of the over 1million missing voters in the state.
Responding, Governor Babatunde Fashola who led the members of the State Executive Council to address the protesting residents, also expressed disappointment in the conduct of the PVC distribution exercise by INEC.
While also calling for the extension of the exercise in view of the population of Lagos State, Governor Fashola said the extension of the exercise was necessary to enable more residents take part in their civic obligations.
He said: “If our sizes are different why don’t we have different cloths? When they spend certain days in the state that is not as populated as Lagos, why should they spend same days with Lagos which is more populated?”
Expressing dismay in the conduct of the exercise, despite its significance to the democratic ethos, Governor Fashola added, “Why should INEC keep deceiving us? What if INEC is the one running our banks? What if INEC is the one producing Cocacola and Guinness and other popular consumables, we wouldn’t have had in the market again? What is difficult in the distribution of the PVCs?”
He wondered why it is becoming increasingly difficult for the nation’s electoral umpire to do the necessary things by ensuring all Nigerians are not disenfranchised.
He added that extension of the distribution exercise would make up for the shoddy preparation for the exercise as shown in the INEC performance in the last few days.
“Day one they didn’t come. So, we lost day one which is 8 hours, Day 2 when we should have 9 hours, some of the text messages I got was that some people started getting theirs in their areas at 2pm. So, Day 2 when we should have 9 between 8am and 2pm that they showed up, we have so, we have lost 6 hours
Day 3 the same happened. Some people have not shown up,” he explained.