The alarm raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that some politicians are buying Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) or inducing voters financially to collect their Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) is worrisome. It is also a subversion of democratic principles. Disclosing this in Abuja during its quarterly consultative meeting with political parties and presentation of the 2019 voter register and electoral guidelines, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, revealed that its officials are under pressure from desperate politicians to sell to them unclaimed PVCs across the country.
The INEC boss lamented that a new method of vote buying is being devised by politicians and stressed that the commission has received credible information that some partisan actors are buying PVCs from voters. According to him, “A new method of vote buying is being devised. We have received credible information that some partisan actors are now going round buying up PVCs from voters or financially inducing them to collect their VINs on their PVCs.” The INEC boss pointed out that in some instances, telephone numbers and details of bank accounts of voters are being collected.
To check the menace of vote buying, the commission has vowed to watch political parties and monitor their campaign finances. It has also designed campaign finance reporting forms to ensure compliance with the reporting requirements by parties. We commend the electoral umpire for raising the alarm and urge it to go after those behind the dastardly act. INEC must make sure that the perpetrators of this heinous electoral crime are quickly arrested and diligently prosecuted. All those convicted must be adequately punished. There is no doubt that politicians buying voters’ PVCs are either scheming to win at all cost or are working seriously to undermine the integrity of the forthcoming elections.
The desperation to buy PVCs by politicians underscores the challenge the umpire will face during the elections. Everything must be done by INEC to prevent these desperate politicians from achieving their inordinate goals. We condemn the craze by politicians to buy PVCs. We believe that vote buying is a gross abuse of the nation’s electoral laws. It should be done away with. Since INEC is aware of the new tricks by politicians to subvert the forthcoming election, it must work with security agencies to deal decisively with the perpetrators of the offence, including those allegedly trying to compromise INEC officials. We urge the commission to put its house in order.
It is disheartening that after the scandalous vote buying in Anambra, Kogi, Ekiti, and Osun governorship elections, a new culture of buying PVCs from voters has emerged some weeks before the Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for February 16. Undoubtedly, vote buying is dangerous to our nascent democracy and all Nigerians must work in concert to stop the menace. All politicians must say no to vote buying before it undermines our electoral process.
Our democracy should not be allowed to descend into a farce or hijacked by desperate, partisan actors. It is also unfortunate that despite the threat this ugly phenomenon poses to our democracy, little or nothing has been done by way of enacting a specific law that will make vote buying a criminal offence. Although Section 124(1) (a-c) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) prescribes punishment for anyone who directly and corruptly procures, canvases for votes through bribery, it does not specifically mention vote buying. Perhaps, the law did not envisage that our politicians will descend to such a despicable level.
INEC and security agencies should devote more time and resources to educate the electorate on the dangers of selling their PVCs. While the rising level of poverty in the country may be a factor that makes a voter to sell his vote, the danger far outweighs the immediate gain. It is the duty of all Nigerians to ensure that the 2019 election is free, fair and credible.