The extended voters registration by Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission which was welcomed by many may have not lived up to expectation especially in Akwa Ibom State as unscrupulous elements and officials within the commission may have sabotaged the process with the extortion from innocent citizens who wish to acquire the permanent voters card unprecedented in INEC’s office Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo.
Investigations by SecretReporters reveal that some INEC officials at Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo in collaboration with certain individuals and security operatives at the registration center became notorious as they employed every gimmick necessary to extort money from residents living in Uyo who on a daily basis flooded the INEC office to obtain their PVCs after the commission extended the registration exercise to August 31, 2018.
For these officials, it was business galore as the extension and huge turnout of eligible citizens created an avenue through which they enriched their pockets, as they brazenly hoarded forms for voters registration with the forms secretly sold from N200 to as high as a N1000 depending on the bargain by the buyer.
Our reporter who visited the commission’s office located at Ikot Akpan Abia, beside the Nigerian Police headquarters in Uyo at about 9:30 am on a Sunday, two weeks ago, was surprised when he was told on arrival that the list for the collection of forms for the PVC was filled up. Like every other citizen he proceeded to the small window designated for those who needed just the form, as without it you won’t join the queue either will you be allowed access into the registration room. Pleas for more than three hours for the form fell on deaf ears as the police officer in charge of security kept saying “The form we have now is finished, don’t worry wait, you will get the form when they release it from the office”.
While waiting for the form our reporter obtained the video below which clearly shows a room with the inscription “Out of Bounds” where gullible citizens are made to part with a certain amount of money just to get the form or they get pushed out. The selling of the forms which was presumably coordinated from the registration room where the forms were issued involves agents who in most cases were not INEC staff and the police officer with no name tag who only allows a select group of persons through the iron door at the entrance. Failure to coorporate will get you pushed out and preferential treatments were also given to individuals who pay higher as they are promptly attended to.
Our reporter in line with our editorial policy of unbiased reportage identified himself and approached the INEC official, who was simply identified as Mr. Ikom to lodge complaints about people’s plights and also ascertain if truly he was aware of the irregularities and sanctioned the selling of the forms but the conversation deviated into a harassment as other officials in the room shouted down on the reporter and demanded that he be thrown outside.
The assistant secretary of the NUJ Akwa Ibom State Chapter who accidentally was also in the room after identifying with our reporter proceeded to confiscate his I.D card citing the FOI act and that our reporters should have first checked in with the NUJ office before proceeding on such a fact-finding mission. According to him, journalists from outside the state who seek to find information must identity and report with the state NUJ first; before they can proceed on such mission howbeit it was a Sunday.
Also to further intimidate our reporter, the police officer who was aware that his secret deals have been exposed begged the NUJ assistant secretary who was still holding on to the I.D card to be allowed to call his colleagues from the nearby Police headquarters to bundle our reporter to the station and thoroughly beat him up. It took the intervention of the state NUJ Chairman, Elder Patrick Albert, who was called by SecretReporters Editor in Chief before he released the I.D card and our reporter was allowed to leave the commission’s premises.The Chairman we learned told the overzealous scribe that we are not the regular news medium who go public to investigate but go undercover.
The Resident Electoral Officer we learnt was not in town during the incident as he was away on official assignment with his counterpart in conducting the cancelled By-elections recently conducted in Rivers State which was marred with violence and irregularities.