Wednesday, 8 April 2015

April 11, 2015 Nigeria’s Elections and INEC Card Reader

Evidently, the introduction of the card reader by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) into Nigeria’s electioneering process was noble, novel and bold. Not surprisingly, when INEC declared that it shall be used during the March 28, 2015 Presidential Election it was greeted with mixed reactions. 

This electoral gadget (card reader), according to the chairman of INEC (Prof. Jega), is designed to detect and deter the use of cloned (fake) permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) and hinder other electoral malpractices. Put differently, the card reader is designed to effect physical recognition of owner of PVCs. Also, to further confirm this identity by recognizing the thumb print of the owners. Coupled with these, the card reader is expected to capture the numbers of accredited voters for each polling unit.

Expectedly, Prof Jega’s insistence on the use of this device attracted reactions and counter reactions from political parties. On the one hand, the All Progressive Congress (APC) supported its usability; while on the other hand, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rejected its usability. However, Prof Jega assuaged the fears of Nigerians after experimenting or demonstrating the use of the card reader at the floor of the National Assembly which was also followed up with various tests of the card readers in some states of the federation. 

Furthermore, INEC assured Nigerians of ensuring proper functioning of the card readers. Coupled with this, the commission made provision for ‘incidence forms’ to be used where the card reader could not confirm the thumb print of owner of a PVC.

On the day of the presidential election (March 28), the President-elect (General Mohammed Buhari) and his wife were accredited with the use of the card reader less than 60 seconds each at Daura, Kastina state, however, the incumbent president (Dr Goodluck Jonathan)and the first lady experienced hell to get accredited with the card reader at Otuoke, Bayelsa state. INEC chairman immediately apologised for this, calling it a ‘national embarrassment’.  There were other reports of the failure of the card readers in other polling units, nonetheless, the percentage of failure of the card reader had been said to be infinitesimal. Hence, it was a huge success for INEC and a good step in the right direction for Nigeria’s nascent democracy.

For April 11 election scheduled to elect state governors and members of states assemblies; INEC has reiterated her readiness and insistence on the use of the card readers.  INEC also promises to take right steps to fix card reader hitches that characterized the March 28 election. According to Mr. Kayode Idowu – INEC spokesperson, the commission promises to make available more technical support staff to handle hitches that may arise. He further states that where the card reader fails, the election will be postponed in such polling units.

For me, the employment of card readers by INEC is a noble idea. It should be encouraged and sustained. It will surely help to curb electoral malpractices. It will also help to add credibility and transparency to the electoral process. Likewise, it is a step that can help to facilitate Nigeria’s path towards electronic voting.

INEC must work on the feedback gotten during the March 28 election. Proper servicing and effective configuration of the card readers should be carried out. INEC and Ad-hoc staff must be trained and retrain on the effective use of the card reader. Nigerian voters must also be extra patient and cooperative in the administering of the card reader on the Election Day. As a matter of a civil obligation, voters must insist on the use of the card reader in all polling units as part of the process of ensuring credibility and fairness in the electoral process. Voting is not just a civil duty, it is a right. Likewise, the use of the card reader should be considered as a civil obligation and right, since, Nigeria’s electoral law permits its usage.

Electoral justice can be achieved with the use of the card reader. With fairness and credibility entrenched in Nigeria’s electoral process, good leaders shall emerge thereby leading to good governance and sustainable development in the country.


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