By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
To ensure transparency in 2023 general elections, stakeholders on Tuesday, advocated for e-voting in Nigeria.
Speaking during ‘Stakeholders‘ Roundtable on Electoral Technology’ organised by Yiaga Africa, in Abuja, the stakeholders urged INEC to test all devices to ensure smooth voting.
Speaking, the President of Nigerian Computer Society, NCS, Prof Adesina Sodiya, said Nigeria is rife for e-voting as it will be a standard way to address technology challenges in the electoral process.
Sodiya said: “We are interested in IT adoption in this country so that we move forward. We are progressing in the right direction from Card Reader to BVAS.
“Introducing technology in our processes, activities but should address current challenges we are facing in our nation. If you are having an election and you are having total vote at about 10 per cent of legitimate voters in that state I don’t think you will say you have passed in that election.
“Nigeria is rife for e-voting. Majority of our people who want to queue under the sun but if they know you have a strong e-voting system to cast their vote from the comfort of their home they would embrace it. What we are looking at is the implementation of E-voting system.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan, called on INEC to test its devices deliberately to detect any malfunctioning before the 2023 general elections.
“It is important for INEC to test the system, invite people to push it to the extra limit now that there is no election anywhere we can find one or two flaws.
“The reason why global telecoms invite hackers to try their system and even rewards the person that finds fault is because those people that can find fault you better engage them. Testing is important.
“Monitoring and evaluation is important and the issue of policy. We have moved to bimodal system with facial recognition, and a lot of Nigerians don’t Data Protection law. I give it to INEC for moving to that direction but content matters.
“As far as there is no robust data framework INEC needs to tell other government organizations to get data protection framework in place because if it backfires the person that will suffer most is INEC, because you hold the most important data and now facial recognition.”
However, the Resident Electoral Commission of Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, accused politicians of undermining the effort of the Commission and the electoral process.
Igini said: “When we are dealing with the issue of Card Reader that are other factors to deal with; the failure of the political class to mobilize the Nigerian people is not an issue that matter to them that is the reason people decline.
“As an insider, to have larger and far more objective view as what we are doing as a Commission, I want to say very clearly that the problem we are having in this country there has been less emphasis on that and has to do with people who are out to undermine the electoral process in the country that everything you put together you must look at what is called the human agency.
“The Card Reader does not play, is that really a problem. We introduced Card Reader and to ensure inclusivity that the name of somebody in the register and to get the Card Reader confirmed we used the Incident Form, but the Incident Form was abused.
“All cost of election in Nigeria is on account of people who are out to manipulate the process and that are why we are like grasshoppers because when the Commission plans for a long term the politicians are out there to undermine what we are doing.
“Like we are planning now to have the BVAS out there and they are trying to undermine that process. You put in place something for the interest of the nation there are people out to undermine the process, and we do nothing with them or make effort to arraign them in court.
“They went as far as using the elite to undermine the process, and the Commission has convicted one, in two days time another one will be arraigned.”
He also added that Nigerians mostly resides in the rural area, and called for a separate engagement with stakeholders who undermine the electoral process, also frowned at unnecessary changes of Commissioners of Police when it gets close to election in a particular state, and described these issues as serious, and added that successful elections are not technologically driven but successful elections are technologically assisted.
However, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, openly disagreed with call for Nigeria to adopt e-voting as seen in advanced democracies, while pointing out that other technologies in the country Nigerians use for their daily activities are not as the same as the electoral technologies.
“I beg to disagree with the President of the Nigerian Computer Society that Nigeria is rife for e-voting, and I say this with all sense of responsibility.
“As a grassroots and practical politician, I have moved around and yes it is easier for us who live in municipality of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja to talk about digital coverage.
“There are other places you visit you see the problem of infrastructure. There is still network problem in most parts of the rural areas.
“We cannot insulate INEC of overrating their capability and potentials on what they can do. With the level of deployment and training it gives a lot of room for our concern whether for now we can deploy the Card Reader.
Also speaking on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, he (Basiru) said, “As far as legal framework is concerned by the Section 42 of he Bill that is put in place now the determination of the mode of election though open-secret ballot system has been adopted and sent to INEC and mode of transmission has been sent to INEC of course subject to Section 23 which provides that results have been announced and collated at the polling unit so that there can be a paper trill.”
Earlier, in an opening remark, the Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, commended the National Assembly over the move on amending the Electoral Act in accordance with current challenges in the electoral process.
“We are excited that the national assembly has deemed it fit that at this point in time our electoral law should respond to prevailing realities in the electoral process and as watchers and observers and participants in the political and electoral reform process we note the amendments to confer legalities on electronic transmission of result as the leverage granted to INEC to deploy technology for elections
“Technologies are great for elections, technologies enhance citizens participation, electoral transparency but technology can undermine the integrity of elections, can also limit the participation of citizens in the electoral process.
“And our goal is in fostering this conversation is based on our own experience as Nigerians. What has been our experience with technologies in our elections, have they improved the qualities of our elections? Have they enhanced its integrity?” Itodo queried.