In spite of the clandestine moves by political actors to discourage the deployment of technology in elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has disclosed it’s plans to procure at least 200,000 electronic voting machines for use in the 2023 general elections.
Based on this projection, the Commission has invited different companies to showcase their electronic voting machine solutions to enable the Commission make its choice of the most suitable package. National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, who disclosed this in an exclusive chat with New Telegraph, said that the Commission is currently evaluating the submissions made by the electronic voting machine vendors to ascertain the best options.
Okoye denied the speculations that INEC had cancelled all its procurement orders for digital equipment and devices to enable electronic voting and transmission of results after the two chambers of the National Assembly passed different versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill last month. He said that rather than abandoning its plans, INEC was poised towards deepening the use of technology in elections.
“The business of the Commission is anchored on transparency and due process. The Commission is not engaged in the business of speculation and fortune telling. The Commission is committed to deepening the use of technology in the electoral process. “The deployment of electronic voting machines in the electoral process is not dependent on the new electoral legal framework. An electronic voting machine with a paper trail will obviate any form of challenge and fears being expressed relating to the powers of the Commission to deploy such machines. “Moreover, section 52(2) of the Electoral Act provides that “voting at an election under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Independent National Electoral Commission,” he said. Okoye reassured Nigerians that INEC will continue to deepen the use of technology within the existing legal framework.
“The Smart Card Readers; the INEC Voter Enrolment Device and the Z-Pad are important components of the electoral process and the Commission will continue to deploy them. The proposed amendment to section 49 of the Electoral Act captures the deployment of the Smart Card Reader and or any other device for voter accreditation.
The Commission will continue to upload polling unit results for public viewing. There is nothing in the law that prohibits the Commission from deploying these electronic solutions. “Unfortunately, the existing legal framework configured our electoral process to run manually. Our preference is for the law makers to give the Commission broad powers to deploy technology as at and when due.
It will be difficult to deploy full technology in the face of sections 63 of the Electoral Act. Section 63(1) of the Act provides that: “The Presiding Officer shall, after counting the votes at the polling unit, enter the votes scored by each candidate in a form to be prescribed by the Commission as the case may be.
Section 63(2) also provides that: “The form shall be signed and stamped by the Presiding Officer and counter signed by the candidates or their polling agents where available at the polling unit” and section 63(3) provides that: “The Presiding Officer shall give to the Polling Agents and the police officer where available a copy each of the completed forms after it has been duly signed as provided in subsection (2) of this section”.
Okoye reiterated the position of the Election Management Body on the issue of electronic transmission of election results, stressing that not only does the Commission have the capacity to transmit results electronically, it had experimented on it several times and emerged with positive outcomes
“The Commission is clear and has clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously stated that it has the capacity to electronically transmit results of elections. The Commission has been piloting different electronic solutions.
The Commission has uploaded polling unit results to INEC Result Viewing Portal and this enabled the Nigerian people engage the electoral process and view results in real time. This has reduced human interference in the outcome of elections.
“On 30th January 2018, the Commission had meetings and discussions with NCC leading to the establishment of INEC/ NCC joint technical committee on use of modern telecommunications technology on the conduct of elections.
During the meeting the Commission underscored the four core areas of the collaboration to include real time communication involving live transmission of election results electronically; ensuring the security and integrity of the system and collated data from the polling units from tampering by intruders and the possibility of proving mobile Base Transmitting Stations (BTS’s) to remote, unserved and underserved areas for election purposes. NCC presented the Cellular Network coverage map for Nigeria.”