Problems as INEC eyes electronic voting for 2023 elections

Many Nigerians, especially civil society organizations, believe the country is ripe for electronic voting as part of measures to deepen democracy and good governance.

There have been calls for electronic voting over the years, but some concerns, including fear of cybercrime, lack of electricity and rural development, and hi-wire politics among political actors in the country, have been listed among the factors hindering the process.

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said in February that the commission would continue to carry out further pilot tests of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and roll out the device during elections. forthcoming elections for the governors of Ekiti and Osun. , and finally, the 2023 general election.

He also said that the commission has made tremendous progress in the area of ​​voter accreditation through the deployment of the BVAS.

Yakubu said that in six by-elections held last weekend in four states of the federation, the scheme worked best in rural, suburban and urban areas.

A lawyer and founder of Afe Babalola University, Chief Afe Babalola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said electronic voting (e-voting) is a comprehensive voting, counting and transmission system.

He said the process can involve both the voting and vote counting process or only involve the counting process.

The term electronic voting can also refer to the transmission of ballots and votes by telephone, private computer or the Internet. However, the Nigerian electoral issues transcend the review or implementation of the electronic voting system.

Professor Yakubu had said in September 2020 that the commission had started processes that would lead to replacing manual voting with automated voting or an electronic voting system in the country.

The recent signing of the Elections Act 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari was seen as a huge leap forward for INEC and Nigerians, especially civil society organizations who led the clamor for the National Assembly approves the electronic vote and the transmission of the results.

In the current Election Law, some provisions on Electronic Voting and Related Matters in Section 41.(1) state that INEC shall provide appropriate boxes, electronic voting machines or any other voting device for conduct elections.

Further, Section 62.(2) states: “The commission shall compile, maintain and update, on a continuous basis, a register of election results known as the National Electronic Register of Election Results, which shall be a separate database or repository. vote-by-vote results, including the aggregated results of each election conducted by the commission in the federation, and the register of election results are kept in electronic form by the commission at its national headquarters.

INEC in July had an open debate with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) over the latter’s assertion that there was not enough network coverage across the country to warrant the transmission of election results for the 2023 general election.

The commission wondered why the NCC, as a sister organization which had known since 2018 that INEC had the ability to transmit results electronically, would say in 2021 that electronic transmission of results was no longer possible at the Nigeria.

Also speaking on the development, the Senate said that despite INEC’s constitutionally guaranteed independence, its decision in the provision of Article 52(3) of the Electoral Law Amendment was in the interest of democratic development.

Senate Spokesperson Ajibola Basiru said this during a “Stakeholder Reflection Roundtable on Electoral Reform” organized by Yiaga Africa and the European Union (EU) in Abuja.

He said INEC’s concern about the electoral law had been taken into account, as Article 68(1) had given the commission the power to review election results declared under duress.

On the electronic transmission of results, Ajibola said the Senate provision has constitutional backing and disagrees with the position held by most Nigerians.

“The commission should consider the electronic transmission of results, provided that the national coverage is adequate and secured by the CCN as approved by the National Assembly.

“The argument that INEC is independent, in article 78 of the constitution, stands out. But paragraph 22 of the exclusive legislative list, which is found in section four of the constitution, gives the National Assembly the power to make laws, including the power to decide the mode of election. This is why Article 52 says there should be an open secret ballot,” he said.

However, against the lawmaker, the Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Mrs. Cynthia Mbamalu, said that the leadership of the National Assembly should instead make things work for the country and the people.

She said that instead of inhibiting the quest for INEC and the desire of Nigerians, lawmakers should strive to ensure the complete automation of electoral activities in the country.

INEC boss Yakubu had also said the commission had been working on deploying technology during election voting to replace the current manual system, which is cumbersome and requires huge logistics to deliver huge quantities. of printed materials and a large number of announcements. ad hoc staff to administer the process.

“To this end, the commission has drawn up the specifications of the required functions of the machine. After extensive discussion and review, the commission has made the decision to invite original manufacturers of electronic voting machines from around the world for a virtual or hands-on demonstration,” he said.

He had said while defending the 2021 budget before the House Elections Committee on November 4, 2020, that the committee would be rolling out electronic voting machines very soon, possibly starting with the gubernatorial ballot. Anambra scheduled for November this year.

Fear of technological problems

Among the fears related to the full adoption of electronic voting in the country are insecurity, lack of electricity, qualified personnel to manage the machines, financial implications, fraud and hacking on the Internet, as well as the level literacy, especially at the grassroots level.

CSOs react

The executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, hailed INEC’s plan, especially that electronic balloting in Nigeria’s elections started from November’s gubernatorial election. 2021 in Anambra State as a pilot election for innovation.

“CISLAC commends the efforts of INEC to transition the Nigerian electoral system to a technology-based system capable of dealing with much of the voter fraud that characterizes elections in Nigeria.

“Although the CENI also rightly noted that the full deployment of electronic voting machines, which will include the electronic transmission of results, would not be implemented until the electoral law is amended, the plan is in line with the pleas for the deployment of measures that build credibility in our elections,” Rafsanjani said.

Furthermore, the Executive Director of the Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, told the Daily Trust on Sunday that the country opting for full electronic voting was commendable.

According to him, electronic voting has several advantages that make it an attractive option.

“First, results can be compiled more quickly and incidents of people voting multiple times will be taken care of. However, in an environment like ours, with its limited infrastructure, INEC should create sufficient backup plans to deploy this technology.

“Despite these challenges, it is undeniable that introducing more technology into the electoral process is the way forward, especially given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Zikirullahi said.

Comments are closed.