The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has raised the alarm that millions of Northern voters particularly women, are being made to surrender their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for N2,000.
Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the forum’s director of Publicity and Advocacy, in a statement issued Wednesday, said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has confirmed what the public has been aware of in the last few weeks.
The forum, decried the widespread and targeted buying of PVCs in many parts of the North and a few other parts of Nigeria.
The Forum noted that it had followed this worrying phenomenon, while advising community leaders and major stakeholders on the dangers of disenfranchising large numbers of citizens.
NEF noted that it had also undertaken its own investigations, which prompted this public warning.
“Thousands, or possibly even millions of Northern voters, particularly women, are being made to surrender their PVCs for a pittance, in most instances not more than N2,000.
“In some instances, they are told their cards will be returned to them after they are processed for additional payments as poverty relief. No cards are returned.
“Our investigations suggest that this is an aggressive and blatant voter suppression attempt to reduce the voting powers of the North. We have been assured by INEC that this practice in itself will not compromise its systems and processes.
“People who are involved in this practice appear to be working for different parties, but they target communities where they assume their parties or candidates have comparative advantages or disadvantages.”
The forum, therefore, advised registered voters not to part with their PVCs under any circumstances, irrespective of the party or candidate they support.
It said northerners must vote in the forthcoming elections, saying that was the only way the region could reverse its current fortunes and circumstances.
“To sell your card now, or sell your vote in next year’s elections is to betray your responsibility to improve our circumstances and future.
“Every Northerner should know that our voting population and turnout during elections are the only powers we have left, but we can use them to affect who will lead us at the next elections.
“Voters from other parts of the country are jealously guarding their voting opportunities. Our relative poverty now is no excuse to surrender the opportunity to improve our future.”
They called on the electoral umpire to intensify its public awareness campaign against this dangerous threat to the rights of all voters to vote, while also calling on all authorities to raise levels of vigilance and arrest this practice.
The Federal and State governments were further called on to intensify campaigns against violent threats that could prevent millions of voters in the North, and many other citizens in other parts of the country from voting.