With less than eight months to the 2019 general elections, the Independent National Elect
Commission (INEC) in Rivers State, still has a staggering 387,089 unclaimed Permanent Voters' Cards (PVCs) arising from registered voters before the 2015 general elections.
About 2,537,590 million people registered to vote in the elections, but as at 2016 only 12,835 persons actually collected their PVCs before the 2015 general elections, while an outstanding 387,089 PVCs remain unclaimed.
Elsewhere in the South-South geopolitical zone, the unclaimed PVCs figures run as follows: Edo State 460,000, Akwa Ibom State 124,669, Cross River State 72,000, Bayelsa State 28,533 and Delta State 20,000.
TNN checks revealed that the cards for 2011, 2015 and the ongoing Continuous Voters' Registration (CVR) exercises were still lying unclaimed in INEC offices across the 23 local government areas headquarters in Rivers State.
It was also learnt that out of the nearly 3000,000 voters registered before the 2015 general elections and the large turnout recorded in the CVR, Rivers State still has a high number of unclaimed PVCs.
An apparent high level of apathy shown by registered voters in the collection of their PVCs is worrisome, especially as the 2019 general elections are around the corner.
The PVCs, TNN also learnt, lay at the INEC offices with no practical efforts by the potential voters to collect them.
Consequently, the INEC in Rivers State has decried the low rate of collection of permanent voters' cards by Rivers residents after due registration.
When contacted, the INEC public affairs officer, Mrs Geraldine Ekemele, said that though the interest shown by the Rivers people during registration was impressive, there was apathy on the collection of the PVCs in Rivers State.
She, therefore, advised those individuals who were yet to collect their PVCs in Rivers State to do so without any further hesitation.
Meanwhile, the commission in Port Harcourt is said to have made frantic efforts to reaching out to all the affected electorate to visit the INEC offices to claim their PVCs before the Commission disposes of them.
Insider sources in INEC disclosed to TNN in Port Harcourt that all the unclaimed PVCs in the commission's offices across the 36 States, FCT and 774 local government areas headquarters would be burnt if the owners did not claim them.
This, according to the INEC competent sources, is to prevent the voters' cards from being used to manipulate the upcoming 2019 general elections.
The burning process of the unclaimed PVCs, TNN gathered, would be made open for all Nigerians to witness, while the commission planned to investigate the reasons for the worrisome high number of unclaimed voters' cards.
According to the INEC insider sources, "we are investigating the reasons behind the high number of unclaimed PVCs. But from our preliminary investigation, the Commission discovered that many National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who registered did not collect their PVCs.
"We also discovered that many students who registered have relocated, while some of them have graduated. Many others have relocated to their states of origin ".