…seeks Electoral Act amendment to allow electronic voting.
As part of the preparations towards the anticipated launch of electronic voting in forthcoming elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission says it has commenced the analysis of the various electronic voting machines showcased by over 50 companies.
It added that it was looking forward to the amendment of the legal framework that would enable electronic voting, noting that it remained committed to introducing electronic voting machines in the electoral process to replace the manual system that had put the commission under heavy logistics burden, including the printing of electoral papers and hiring of thousands of ad hoc staff, among others.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed these in an interview on Friday. He explained that the commission was currently attending to procurement issues to the extent allowed by the COVID-19 protocols.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had said during the 2021 budget defence before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters on November 4, 2020 that the commission would deploy the electronic voting machines very soon, possibly beginning with the Anambra governorship poll scheduled to hold in November this year.
Yakubu had earlier said that over 40 companies that indicated interest in hard and software production would be invited to demonstrate to the commission how their Information Technology solutions meet the commission’s specifications.
“It is difficult to give you an idea of cost or when the process would be concluded, but we are determined that we are going to deploy electronic voting machines, electronic balloting machines very soon in our elections, possibly beginning with the Anambra governorship election in 2021.
But, Okoye said in the interview, “The commission is presently engaged in the procurement of INEC Voter Enrolment Devices (IVED) for the planned Voter Register update processes. These devices will be used to enroll Nigerians that have attained the age of 18 years, clean up the voters register and acquire additional biometric that will be in consonance with the use of Electronic Voting machines.
“The commission invited over 50 companies engaged in hard and software production to demonstrate the different brands and versions of their Electronic Voting Machines. The companies demonstrated the different Electronic Voting Machine solutions available.
“Some of the companies demonstrated the solutions virtually. The commission is analysing all the demonstrated systems for purposes of choosing the ones that are in tandem with our ecosystem, is rugged, simple to use and easily maintained.”
Some political watchers who spoke to one of our correspondents however called on the commission to ensure the process was transparent so as not to deflate the anticipated benefits and people’s confidence in the proposed e-voting system.
…seeks Electoral Act amendment to allow e-voting
Asked if INEC was still committed to electronic voting in 2023, Okoye said, “The commission is committed to deepening the use of technology in the electoral process and the commission is committed to the introduction of electronic voting machines in Nigeria.
“We are therefore attending to procurement issues under the shadow of the pandemic. The pandemic no doubt affected and still affects production capacities of hardware and software companies. We are also looking forward to the amendments of the electoral legal framework that will domicile more concretely the use of technology in the electoral process.”
There has been divided opinions on whether the country was ripe for electronic voting, but Yakubu said at the inauguration of the 1999 Constitution Review Committee of the House of Representatives in October 2020 that elections in the country were too manual, expensive, cumbersome and archaic. He added that “the encumbrance of the deployment of full technology in elections should be removed.”
…faulty party primaries, forged certificate fuelling bye-elections
The commission has however expressed worry that flawed primaries by political parties and nomination of candidates were making the commission to incur cost when the courts order for fresh elections.
The INEC chairman had in 2018 described the primaries held by parties in 2018 ahead of the 2019 elections as the most acrimonious in the history of the country.
Okoye however said, “The biggest challenge at the moment is that most of the bye-elections that the commission is grappling with arose as a result of the opaque nature of some of the party primaries and the nomination of candidates with qualification baggage.
“Political Parties must be thorough and avoid manipulative tendencies in the screening and choice of their candidates. It is inconceivable that political parties still overlook aspirants with questionable credentials and sponsor them and the commission is forced to go back and conduct elections when the courts declare them as not qualified to contest the election.”
He said an amendment of the law as being proposed would increase substantially the penalty for nominating unqualified candidates and the commission would be in a good stead to prosecute the political parties and the aspirants and candidates involved.
While assuring Nigerians that printing of sensitive electoral materials would be accorded the required tact, he said the commission engaged companies and factories locally and internationally that met the requirements for the production of sensitive electoral materials.
E-voting should be a prerequisite for 2023 elections – PDP
In its reaction, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, said the introduction of e-voting should be a prerequisite for the conduct of 2023 general elections.
It recalled that the National Assembly, under the leadership of the former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, had amended the Act, but regretted that it was not signed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), before the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the introduction of e-voting would be acceptable to majority of Nigerians.
He said, “Such innovation would have helped in curbing electoral fraud that we witnessed in 2018, but the President and his party rejected it. So, if INEC wants to redeem its image now by sponsoring the bill and insisting on its passage, we shall support it. The amendment should come early enough to allow for sensitisation of voters across the country.”
E-voting, electronic transfer of results the way to go – NCFront
The National Consultative Front has expressed support for moves by INEC to introduce electronic voting, saying it would like to see a process where the issues around it were addressed before the 2023 general elections.
In a telephone interview with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, head of the NCFront Secretariat, Olawale Okunniyi, explained that until Nigeria fully embraced electronic voting and transfer of election results as well as diaspora voting, the journey towards a transparent and all inclusive election would remain a mirage.
He said, “We fully support any genuine effort to make our electoral process transparent and all-inclusive. We believe that until we are able to have electronic voting and electronic transfer of results our electoral process will continue to be fraudulent with the highest bidders and money bags having their way. The world is going digital and we as a nation cannot afford to be left behind.”