The 18 recognised political parties in Nigeria have urged all stakeholders in the electoral system to persuade the country’s elected representatives in both chambers of the National Assembly to listen to the voice of the people and support electronic transfer of election results which they jettisoned in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed in July.
The National Assembly on the eve of their annual recess passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill amidst the controversy surrounding section 52 which leave the electronic transmission of election results at the mercy of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Section 52 (2) of the Bill provided that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections “may adopt electronic voting or any other method of voting in any election it conducts as it may deem fit”.
To achieve what many Nigerians consider a hidden agenda to rule out the electronic transmission of election results, the House of Representatives before the passage of the legislation, invited the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to properly guide it and the Commission that only 50 percent of Polling Units across the country have a 3G network that can enable such transmission.
NCC speaking through the Executive Commissioner Technical Services, Ubale Maska when it appeared before the Parliament gave the indication that electronic transmission of the election was not possible.
“We did an analysis of network coverage in 2018 in respect of all polling units in the country. We found out we had 119, 000 polling units. We plotted 2G coverage, 3G coverage. We were able to see that about half of the polling units were covered with 2G/3G services. Roughly about 50.3 of those than about 49.7 didn’t have network coverage at all.
“…50% had 3G coverage and 2G together 49.7%? had only 2G and about 1000 Polling Units had none at all. From a personal standpoint, what is required is 3G that could give that kind of transmission in full”, Maska had said.
This was immediately debunked by INEC on a National Television that it has the capacity for electronic transmission of results from remote areas of the country.
“We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access,” INEC’s National Chairman and Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye said.
“So, we have made our own position very clear, that we have the capacity and we have the will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process”, he added.
But there is still a ray of hope for the provision for electronic transmission of election results to be included in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as there is still a window of harmonisation of the report of both the House Committee on Electoral Matters and that of the Senate when the apex legislature resumes from recess next week.
It is against this backdrop that Nigerian political parties under the auspices of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) expressed delight that hope is totally lost on electronic transmission of election results or electronic voting.
IPAC Chairman, Leonard Nzenwa who gave this indication at the third quarterly meeting of INEC with Political Parties in Abuja on Monday said, the bill is still within the concave of the National Assembly for harmonization by both Chambers and called stakeholders to prevail on the parliament to have a rethink.
Nzenwa expressed disgust that the most crucial legislative instrument that would not only have altered the way elections are conducted in the country but also helped to stop election rigging and other forms of manipulation of election results were rejected by the National Assembly.
“Outrage over rejection of electronic transfer of election results bill that would have motivated the Commission and the political parties to do more which is still smoldering in the country is understandable. But we are glad that the bill is still within the concave of the National Assembly for harmonization by both chambers and urge all stakeholders to still persuade our elected representatives to listen to the voice of the people and support electronic transfer of election results.
“We all too quickly forgot that Introduction of the z-pack which enhanced task of transferring of elections information details from voting centers and introduction of other administrative innovations were largely responsible for the successful conduct of the Edo and Ondo Gubernatorial Polls which made these elections to be adjudged to be credible and fair particularly the Edo one. We support the Commission to continue to develop and use deep-end technology to enhance our electoral process”, he said.
Nzenwa also lamented that conflicting judgments from a court of competent jurisdiction in the country on political matters have become embarrassing and theatrical, saying “the pillar to post legal assault on one another and forum shopping by litigants and lawyers is not helping our political processes neither is it conferring any level of dignity on our democratic journey”.
Earlier, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu disclosed that the INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED) which Z-pad has been integrated will be used for the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for fingerprint authentication during accreditation and where it fails for facial authentication at the November 6 Anambra governorship election.
Yakubu said this multi-layer process will eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s Permanent Voter Card (PVC), stressing that where the voter fails both the fingerprint and facial authentication, he/she will not be allowed to vote.
“In other words, no electronic authentication, no voting. We are convinced that the new machine is robust enough to further guarantee the credibility of voter authentication and transparent management of results during elections. Accordingly, the Commission intends to carry out a pilot exercise using the new device in Delta State during the Isoko South 1 State Assembly constituency bye-election holding this weekend (Saturday 11th September 2021).
“The BVAS will now perform the functions of both the SCR and Z-Pad in the bye-election. Thereafter, it will be deployed in the Anambra Governorship election in November”, he stated.
Yakubu also recalled that the Commission devolved the Continuous Voter’s Registration (CVR) in Anambra State and said the physical exercise was suspended on Sunday which was 60 days to the election as required by Section 9(5) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
He however said, the online pre-registration option will continue to be available but no appointment for completion of registration can be scheduled until after the election.
“The Commission will use the next few weeks to compile the register of voters for claims and objections, clean up the data, print the PVCs for collection by registrants, and compile the register for each of the 5,720 polling units in the State.
“I want to assure every newly registered voter in Anambra State, including those who applied to transfer from within and outside the State or for the replacement of damaged or lost PVCs that their cards will be printed and made available to them for collection before the election.
“Each political party fielding candidates in the election will be given a copy of the voters’ register on 7th October 2021 as published in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the elections”, the INEC Chairman added.
While giving an update on the ongoing CVR, Yakubu said: “As of 7am today, Monday 6th September 2021, 2,729,819 fresh voters have pre-registered online. Similarly, we have been giving weekly updates of the physical registration in our State and Local Government offices nationwide. We started on 26th July 2021.
“So far, 717,947 Nigerians have completed their registration at the designated centres…in terms of age, young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 34 constitute 65% of new registrants and 72% of completed registrations so far. In terms of occupation, students constitute 32% of the new registrants and 42% of completed registrations and remain the largest category since the exercise began 11 weeks ago”.