ON Saturday, March 7, 2015, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted a field test of the smart card readers in 12 states of the federation to assess their efficiency for the 2015 general elections.
Although it was relatively successful, not a few are kicking against the deployment of the electronic device for the March 28 and April 11 polls.
And as the controversy over the use of the smart card readers rages, ENCOMIUM Weekly has exposed 13 reasons the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some stakeholders are not comfortable with it.
- ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ELECTORAL ACT
Citing Section 52 of the Electoral Law, the party and its supporters insist that Section 1(b) of the Act “prohibits the use of electronic voting machine for the time being.”
But INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega has explained that the use of Card Readers does not amount to electronic voting. The device, the electoral body clarified, is only for the purpose of accreditation of voters.
- TIME OF TEST RUN NOT SUFFICIENT
The PDP has also argued that INEC would have waited for at least a state or local government election before deploying the smart card readers. The party even claimed that the INEC chairman himself had assured before now that the electronic machines would not be used until they have been tested in previous elections.
INEC in its defence has, however, revealed that the political parties collectively agreed to use the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and its allied electronic components for this election. It is also a fact that the electoral body regularly holds meetings with stakeholders on critical issues like this.
- 12 STATES NOT SUFFICIENT FOR THE EXERCISE
Relatedly, some stakeholders including the PDP are also not satisfied with the percentage of the states INEC tested the card readers. In fact, in one advertorial Goodluck Lagos Grassroots Project, a pro-Jonathan group, queried Jega’s seriousness on the election project. They argued the number of voters represent just about 30 per cent of the over 68 million figure voting this year.
But for INEC, selecting two states from each geo-political zone is fair enough to test the Smart Card Readers. The electoral commission also said that the test in the select wards and polling units was also sufficient for the assessment of the electronic machines.
- CARD READERS MAY DELAY VOTER ACCREDITATION
The PDP is also worried by the delay noticed at the various states where the INEC Card Readers were tested. According to field reports, the average time spent on the verification of PVCs was 30 seconds as observed in about 84 per cent of sampled polling units.
Devoid of any challenges, 30 seconds was also the average time used for finger prints authentication. Cumulatively, each voter spent about 25 to 30 seconds for card verification and finger print authentication.
But where those opposed to the use of Card Readers have serious complaints are where more time would be expended on the process if the Card Reader failed to authenticate finger prints. In such a case, the polling official would spend five to ten minutes to resolve the issue.
INEC has, however, assured that this rare case would be sorted out wherever it occurs.
- REJECTION OF GENUINE VOTERS
The PDP is also rejecting Card Readers because the devices can, in the process of authenticating voters, reject the genuine ones. This, the party argues, would disenfranchise millions of Nigerians for no fault of theirs.
To avoid this, the leadership of the party and the PDP Governors Forum have advised INEC to conduct manual accreditation for problem voters. They want those with Temporary Voters Card (TVC) to vote.
- CARD READERS AND HIGH RATE OF FAILURE
Those opposed to the use of the Smart Card Readers also observed it has high rate of failure. And when the system fails, they argued, it would negatively affect the electoral process.
But INEC, aware of this, says it has provided backup devices to address this challenge.
- POWER-RELATED ISSUES
Given the issue of power outage which is common in all parts of the country, critics of INEC’s Smart Card Readers also want INEC to think twice about its decision on electronic voter authentication.
The electoral body has again, responded with long lasting batteries. Extra batteries have also been made available by the electoral body.
- PENDING LEGAL ISSUES
Those opposed to the use of Card Readers for the 2015 general elections are equally concerned with litany of pending court matters on the controversial voting system.
The implication is that the litigants might get favourable court orders that might void the elections even after they had been conducted.
Legal experts have explained that INEC is statutorily empowered by the constitution to issue guidelines in furtherance of its mandate to conduct elections. In other words, INEC has the statutory power to impose any accreditation process that would ensure a free, fair, credible and peaceful polls.
- IT WOULD BE PRONE TO VIOLENCE
We have also been warned that the use of electronic devices for the 2015 elections might trigger off violence.
Those opposed to INEC Card Readers say that issues arising from the likely challenges could disrupt the elections.
- QUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY OF THE ELECTIONS
With all the challenges envisaged by the PDP and critical stakeholders, there are fears that the result of the general elections might be challenged amidst its questionable integrity.
- PLANNED ELECTION MALPRACTICES ALLEGED
The opposition has also alleged that the PDP is kicking against the use of Permanent Voters Card and Readers because of the party’s plan to rig the elections.
- PDP IN FRESH POLL SHIFT DRAMA
The PDP, according to the opposition, is only buying time for yet another plot to postpone the forthcoming elections. The APC alleged that the ruling party only wanted to create the impression that INEC is not ready to conduct the elections, especially when it has not made adequate arrangements for the exercise. From the party’s point of view, stopping INEC from using the PVCs and the Card Readers is one step to delay the elections that were earlier scheduled for February 14 and February 28 and later shifted to March 28 and April 11, 2015.
- JEGA ON TRIAL
Interestingly, the PDP has been engineering the call for the sack of the INEC chairman, who is no longer in its good books. Political observers believe that the party would never be pleased with the former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in so far as he insists on using the PVC and other related electronic infrastructure that would not be in its interest.
– UCHE OLEHI