FG approves N2.117b for new voters' cards

By The Citizen

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved the printing of 33.5 million permanent voters' cards worth N2.117 billion. This is in addition to the 40 million permanent cards, which had earlier been produced.

Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly meeting, Information Minister, Labaran Maku, said the meeting, presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, also ratified the insitutionalisation of six-level National Vocational Qualifications Frame-work (NVQF) and the placement of national vocational qualifications in the scheme of service.

In continuation of the presentation of scorecards by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), FEC also received briefing from the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zainab Maina, on the performance of her ministry in the last one year.

She lauded the present administration for being gender-friendly as according to her, it remains the only government that has the highest number of ministerial slots to women, with 13 women ministers, most of them manning key ministries that drive the national economy.

Maku said the approval for the permanent voters' cards followed a memorandum presented to the Council by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, on the need to have additional voters' cards to enable more Nigerians have the voters' cards so as not to disenfranchise any eligible voter in the 2015 general elections.

He said: 'Following the successful conduct of the nationwide voter registration exercise in 2011, INEC proposed to print 73.5 million permanent voters' cards to replace the temporary voters' cards issued during the voters' registration exercise. The commission printed 40 million permanent voters' cards in 2011 for the first phase, which is in progress.

'But there is the need to print and issue the remaining 33.5 million permanent voters' cards in this second phase. After the adoption of the previous conclusions, Mr. President tabled a memorandum to seek council's approval for the printing of 33.5 million permanent voters' cards.

'After deliberations, the council approved the contract for the second phase of the printing of 33.5 million permanent voters' cards at the rate of N65 per card in favour of Messrs ACT Technologies Limited, in the sum of N2,117,500,000.00 with a completion period of six months.'

The minister noted that INEC briefed and convinced the council on the need to adopt the use of National Identity Cards as the basis for future elections. Accordingly, going by the proposition, the permanent voters' cards would only be in use for not more than 10 years. 'Effectively, the cards would be for the purpose of 2015 and 2019 general elections, after which the National Identity Cards would now be used as instruments of identification for subsequent elections,' he said.

Justifying the newly-approved NCQF, Education Minister, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i, said the idea was to change the focus and orientation of Nigerians from paper qualifications and also inculcate the idea of people using their brains to earn their living.

According to her, as Nigeria hopes to transform to one of the world's major economies, the greatest asset needed is a competent workforce, which the council believes could be realised through the NVQF, adding: 'In view of this, the council approved the institutionalisation of the six-level NVQF for the country.

'While Nigeria aspires to become a major player in the world economy, the place of skilled and competent workforce cannot be over-played. A competent workforce is necessary for higher productivity …

'But while the phenomenon of vocational skills frame-work has been embraced by many countries, especially the Asian Tigers as a vital scheme to enhance the development of competent workforce and ensure that qualifications for occupations are flexible, transparent and accountable, Nigeria has on other hand disregarded that important development leading to large-scale social consequences.'