Report: Wanted! Hassle-free polls with e-voting, By Temitope Ogunbanke

By Temitope Ogunbanke, National Mirror

 

Last Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State, going by the account of many, can be said to be free and fair. The election was applauded by the international and local observers because of the manner it was conducted. Even some political analysts believe strongly that the Ondo governorship election was an improvement on the last one in Edo, thus giving kudos to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). During the election, there was a heavy deployment of security agents and INEC staffs to Ondo State.

About 18,000 security personnel and 9,000 INEC staff and ad-hoc staff took part in the election to ensure that it was hitch-free. However, despite the applause INEC has got over the election and the huge resources expended, there were still some problems bordering on logistics on the part of INEC and challenges on the part of security agents in the election. Based on the challenges faced during the election therefore, some people are of the view that adopting an electronic voting (e-voting) in future elections will strengthen election process and reduce the cost of conducting election in Nigeria.

Speaking to journalists in Akure on Sunday on the outcome of the Ondo State governorship election, the national chairman of Labour Party, Dr Dan Nwanyanwu, made a proposal to that effect, saying that it would be in the interest of Nigeria as a nation.

His words: “INEC did very well in the Ondo State governorship election and I think it is an improvement from what happened in Edo State governorship election. But we still need to adopt a system that will make us not to mobilise the whole military force and police into one state for election. So, I am recommending electronic system of voting in Nigeria. India used it for over 600million voters and the system succeeded. “It can work also in Nigeria whereby by the time you press a button to vote automatically the result is transmitted. There would be no need for ballot papers, ballot boxes and cubicles. Thugs would have no job to do. It will allow people to go out and vote without any fear. The electronic voting is also less expensive.

By the time we get there I can assure you that Nigeria will fly.” Nwanyanwu’s view also renewed the call for e-voting in Nigeria, especially ahead of the 2015 general elections. It would be recalled that since the Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC called on the National Assembly for the amendment of Section 52 (1) (b) of the Electoral Act 2010, which makes it an offence for INEC to use e-voting, many Nigerians have been expressing different views on the system. While some are commending the initiative of the INEC boss in seeking the introduction of the electronic voting system in future elections, some are of the view that Nigeria is not ripe for e-voting. Electronic voting is a term that describes the use of electronic cards and electronic voting machines in voting for a preferred candidate during an election.

It was invented to correct some anomalies and address some factors militating against credible elections. The introduction of the Direct Data Capturing Machine in Nigeria during the last voter registration exercise assisted a great deal in drastically reducing incident of multiple registrations which was usually the starting point in election rigging. Therefore, those in support of the e-voting believe that adopting the system will uphold the strength of the Nigeria electoral system and improve on its weaknesses. Electronic voting, without any iota of doubt, is a vital key to solving a reasonable portion of the problems associated with our elections.

From issue of transparency to election induced violence orchestrated by thugs and highly prejudiced electoral umpires, electronic voting can help force these typical maladies into the dustbin of history. In the past general elections, Nigerians have experienced high degrees of rigging, ballot box snatching, under-age voters, election and post-election violence. Over the years, elections results in Nigeria have been taken with a pinch of salt.

Therefore, many people believe that adopting the e-voting will make future elections in Nigeria to be more credible and violence free. According to some political analysts, some of the basic advantages of e-voting include; the need to record information and to have the results available quickly; need to have a system that is accessible to all and easy to use (accessibility); need to ensure secrecy of what takes place ; need for voting to be undertaken seriously, after due deliberation .

Others are the ability to ensure that each individual’s vote is recorded and counted accurately; need to guard against manipulation and interference with information once recorded; need to ensure that individuals cannot be impersonated and need to verify what has taken place through the use of traceable information trails.

Many also believe that the use of evoting devices, if legalised ahead of the 2015 elections, will considerably reduce the cost of organising elections in view of the fewer number of manpower that will be required at each poling unit. The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) which has greatly assisted India cope well with its over 700 million voters population contains devices which should make tabulation and computation of elections results faster and eliminate cases of figure alteration between poling units and collation centres. A public affairs analyst, Mr. Chima Nnaji , in a recent television interview programme said that the introduction of electronic voting system would help in combating electoral fraud in Nigeria.

He said that the process of electronic voting is to basically de-personalise the whole process of election and it is also a process that would decongest corruption. The pioneer coordinator of the Ondo State Information Technology Development Centre (SITDEC) and policy chairman of the National Development Initiative (NDi), Mr. Tunji Ariyomo, in a recent statement, posited that electronic is a vital key to solving a reasonable portion of the problems associated with Nigeria’s elections. He said electronic voting could help in forcing election induced violence orchestrated by thugs and highly prejudiced electoral umpires and other electoral frauds into the dustbin of history.

“There is no doubt that electronic voting would bring a major change to the existing electoral system. It will also have the multiple benefits of reducing the need for too many voting stations, introducing permanent voting stations in secure locations and enabling INEC to drive political parties to utilise such voting stations for the conduct of their primaries,” Ariyomo noted.

Those opposed to e-voting believed that the system cannot work in Nigeria now because of the dearth of infrastructure and level of illiteracy in the country. Some people are against the e-voting because they believe that the process may be manipulated by the power brokers, considering the rate of fraudulent activities in the country, especially various scams in public offices.

The epileptic power supply in Nigeria, according to some political analysts, will also be a stumbling block to the e-voting, they said. Although the system could reduce electoral malpractices drastically, many people are of the view that federal government may be unwilling to provide the funding required to put the electronic voting system into use. Speaking to Saturday Mirror, a National Conscience Party (NCP) chieftain, Ogbeni Lanre Banjo, said Nigeria is not mature for electronic voting system because of the level of corruption in the country.

“I am not in support of electronic voting system because it can be programmed to perpetuate fraud. For example, they can programme it in a way that if someone votes for NCP, the vote will go to PDP.

Some countries that adopted the system in the past have stopped using it because of manipulation. I don’t think Nigeria is mature for electronic voting considering the fact that many people are not well conversant with modern day technology devices,” he said.

In a recent media interview, a member of the House of Representatives from Taraba State, Mr. Jerry Manwe, is of the view that funding may be an impediment to e-voting in Nigeria. Manwe, the Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, expressed doubt that the government would adequately finance the voting system.

His words: “There are basic things that INEC needs to put in place, but is the government ready to fund them? We need a data-base for voters, which is not available yet.

Besides, e-voting requires an amendment to the Electoral Act; there is no proposal before the House yet on this. So, on the whole, e-voting is contingent on how much fund the government can provide for INEC. E-voting is good and can reduce electoral malpractices.” With the ongoing constitutional amendment being embarked upon by the National Assembly, and with the possible focus on the Electoral Act 2010, it is unlikely that e-voting will be considered.

Whether the system will survive the debate that will follow is a different matter entirely.

THE CREDIT FOR THIS REPORT BELONGS TO THE NATIONAL MIRROR NEWSPAPER, source HERE

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