Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, participants at a stakeholders’ roundtable have called for full electronics-voting to boost the nation’s electoral system.
The roundtable hosted by Yiaga Africa on Tuesday in Abuja, among others, was to deepen the adoption of electoral technology and credibility of elections.
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Speaking at the event, the President of Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), Prof. Adesina Sodiya, said Nigeria is rife for full e-voting as it will be a standard way to address technology challenges in the electoral process.
“We are interested in IT adoption in this country so that we move forward. We are progressing in the right direction from Card Reader to BVAS. Introducing technology in our processes, activities but should address current challenges we are facing in our nation. If you are having an election and you are having total vote at about 10 percent of legitimate voters in that state, I don’t think you will say you have passed in that election.
“Nigeria is rife for e-voting. Majority of our people who want to queue under the sun but if they know you have a strong e-voting system to cast their vote from the comfort of their home they would embrace it. What we are looking at is the implementation of E-voting system,” Sodiya said.
In his opening remark, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, commended the National Assembly over its move on amending the Electoral Act in accordance with current challenges in the electoral process.
“We are excited that the national assembly has deemed it fit that at this point in time our electoral law should respond to prevailing realities in the electoral process and as watchers and observers and participants in the political and electoral reform process we note the amendments to confer legalities on electronic transmission of result as the leverage granted to INEC to deploy technology for elections.
“Technologies are great for elections, technologies enhance citizens participation, electoral transparency but technology can undermine the integrity of elections, can also limit the participation of citizens in the electoral process.
“And our goal is in fostering this conversation is based on our own experience as Nigerians. What has been our experience with technologies in our elections, have they improved the qualities of our elections? Have they enhanced its integrity?” Itodo said.
On his part, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, Gbenga Sesan, urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to test its devices deliberately to detect any malfunctioning before the 2023 general elections.
He said, “It is important for INEC to test the system, invite people to push it to the extra limit now that there is no election anywhere, we can find one or two flaws.
“The reason why global telecom invite hackers to try their system and even rewards the person that finds fault is because those people that can find fault you better engage them. Testing is important.”
He said that monitoring and evaluation is important and the issue of policy should also be addressed.
He said, “As far as there is no robust data framework INEC needs to tell other government organizations to get data protection framework in place because if it backfires the person that will suffer most is INEC, because you hold the most important data and now facial recognition.”
Also, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, accused politicians of undermining the effort of the commission and the electoral process.
Igini said, “When we are dealing with the issue of Card Reader that are other factors to deal with; the failure of the political class to mobilize the Nigerian people is not an issue that matter to them that is the reason people decline.
“As an insider, to have larger and far more objective view as what we are doing as a Commission, I want to say very clearly that the problem we are having in this country there has been less emphasis on that and has to do with people who are out to undermine the electoral process in the country that everything you put together you must look at what is called the human agency.
“The Card Reader does not play, is that really a problem? We introduced Card Reader and to ensure inclusive that the name of somebody in the register and to get the Card Reader confirmed we used the Incident Form, but the Incident Form was abused.
“All cost of election in Nigeria is on account of people who are out to manipulate the process and that are why we are like grasshoppers because when the Commission plans for a long term the politicians are out there to undermine what we are doing,” Igini said.
However, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, disagreed with call for Nigeria to adopt e-voting as seen in advanced democracies.
He said that while Nigerians use other technologies in the country for their daily activities, these are not as the same as the electoral technologies.
Basiru said, “I beg to disagree with the President of the Nigerian Computer Society that Nigeria is rife for e-voting, and I say this with all sense of responsibility. As a grassroots and practical politician, I have moved around and it is easier for us who live in municipality of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja to talk about digital coverage.
“There are other places you visit you see the problem of infrastructure. There is still network problem in most parts of the rural areas.
“We cannot insulate INEC of overrating their capability and potentials on what they can do. With the level of deployment and training it gives a lot of room for our concern whether for now we can deploy the Card Reader.