2015 Card readers
•INEC should deploy the device to make crooked elections straight
The blight of credible elections has been quite traumatic for the country. For years, the voter’s wish had always been submerged in the context of rigging that has made nonsense of elections in the country. And Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), saddled with election planning and management sometime ago gave a hint of his determination to prove that the commission will do everything possible to conduct reliable, free and fair general elections in 2015.
His bright spark is the proposed deployment of card readers on the day of elections by the commission. Jega unfurled this in a paper titled: “Stakeholders and the Electoral Process in Nigeria” that he delivered at a lecture at the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, in which he reportedly declared: “If you buy voter cards, you can’t use them on voting day because the mechanism we are putting in place in every polling unit will detect fraud and whoever that was involved will be arrested on the spot for electoral fraud and prosecution.” The goal of this scheme, according to him, is to ensure that those card readers detect voter’s impersonation at polling units through their fingerprints.
We are aware of the efficacy of a card reader being data input device that reads data from a card-shaped storage medium. These electronic devices can read plastic cards embedded with either a barcode, magnetic strip, computer chip like the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) that is just being distributed to Nigerians of registered voting age. The PVC is a chip-based card and contains a chip that carries all details and information about each registered voter, including his photograph and fingerprints, amongst others. If properly managed and made available in polling units across the country, the card reader machines will effortlessly ensure authentication of legitimate holder of voters’ cards; thereby mitigating incidents of voting irregularities that Nigeria has become legendary for on issues of election and abuse of voters’ cards.
The question to ask is whether INEC will not bungle the otherwise lofty scheme. We recollect that during the 2011 general elections, the Data Capturing Machines (DCM) deployed by the commission became nightmares and most actually got jettisoned in most voting centres across the country due to the notorious but avoidable ‘Nigerian factor’. Perhaps, the electoral umpire must invest in human capital by ensuring that its staff are properly trained and accorded the right orientation to prevent unscrupulous ones amongst them from derailing the electoral process through criminal compromise of the machines and by extension, the electoral process. The election management prowess of INEC has largely been doubted and mostly ridiculed in the past because its staff often fall for the alluring inducement offers of desperate politicians.
Equally, by Jega’s admission, using the January/February 2011 voters’ registration exercise, Nigeria has about 73.5 million voters. It is not cheering news to note that the commission plans to give PVCs to only about 40 million registered voters out of the 73.5million by December, while it intends to distribute the balance early next year. This, uncomfortably, is less than two months to the general election.
Beyond this, INEC must endeavour to make this initiative work. The commission needs to realise that the card reader machines will be useless without the commission’s speedy and efficient issuance of the PVC to qualified voters. The two are crucial to the success of the new initiative by the commission.
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