From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

Ahead of the 2023 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) warned politicians and registered voters against identity theft, as well as the sale and purchase of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).

INEC’s national commissioner in charge of election education and publicity, Festus Okoye, made the disclosure on Wednesday during a day of training on conflict-sensitive reporting and the 2023 general election, organized for journalists by the Nigerian Union of Journalists ( NUJ) in collaboration. with INEC, held at the Press Center, Iyaganku, Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.

Okoye, who was represented by the Deputy Director in Charge of the Gender Department, Ndidi Okafor, pointed out that politicians reported to have indulged in the illegality of buying PVC have only been wasting their time, energy and resources. She also warned that anyone selling their PVCs would not be able to vote using technology that has been programmed to recognize fingerprints and faces just for accreditation.

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He explained that buying the PVCs from the original owners to which the INEC issued them and distributing them to other people with the pretense of using them to get more votes would amount to identity theft. However, he warned that identity theft would prevent many registered voters from exercising their right to vote during next year’s general election.

His words: “Anyone who buys PVC is embarking on a wasted effort. It is an effort in vain. Futility exercise. It is not possible to seize ballot boxes and ballots again. It’s because of the technology. The only reason some people don’t vote is identity theft. What we are dealing with is the fingerprint and the face.

“So if your finger doesn’t match, then your face must match. If your fingerprint doesn’t match and your face doesn’t match, then you can’t vote, that means you don’t own the PVC. That’s identity theft.”

Okoye, who described the media as a critical stakeholder in conducting free, fair, credible and violence-free elections, called on journalists to be part of “this education to raise public awareness. We need you to ensure accurate reporting.”

NUJ national chairman Chief Chris Iziguso, who was represented by a member of the council’s national trustees, Abimbola Oyetunde, accused journalists that in whatever they do “it is very necessary to take the issue of peace as a cardinal and take into consideration the need to be careful so that already fragile areas do not explode or implode.

“Peace is a basic requirement in a democracy. No democracy can flourish in the absence of peace. While we know that it is inevitable to eliminate crises and conflicts from our society, it is nevertheless important if deliberate efforts are made towards conflict resolution and peace building.”

Iziguso also urged journalists in Nigeria to work for the advancement of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, press freedom, media independence, conflict transformation and peacebuilding, saying : “These are prerequisites for open governance and development, which ultimately serve the public interest”.