Ahead of the 2023 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said it would introduce new technologies to improve conduct of polls.
INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity Department (VEP), Mr. Nick Dazang, disclosed this at a workshop for the department on the “Review of National Voter Education Manual” held in Keffi, Nasarawa State.
The five-day workshop is organised by INEC in partnership with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). Dazang, speaking with newsmen on the side-lines of the workshop, said INEC began the process for electronic voting since 2004 when it introduced optic map registration forms.
“After that in 2010, the Commission introduced the use of direct data capture machines and then expanded the use of the machines in the conduct of the 2011 election. “So, we have started the process as far back as 2004, culminating in the use of the smart card reader (SCR) and the permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) that we also used in 2015.
“But the Commission is reviewing this process with a view to upgrading and improving the conduct of elections in 2023. “The Commission wants to introduce new technologies that will help deepen the conduct of the elections and also improve on them. So, the Commission is working assiduously on that.
“Very soon, when the Commission has taken a position, it will come out and explain to Nigerians how this is going to be done,” Dazang said.
He said that in introducing the new technologies, INEC would revisit the use of card readers and likely to introduce other technologies that will work seamlessly with electronic voting in 2023.
“The Commission has been working on that in the past few months and, God willing, in the next few months, the Commission will make its position known to the public,” he said. Dazang stated that INEC would continue to introduce new technologies to the electoral system, not for the fancy of it, but the technologies that worked.
The INEC VEP director noted that the Commission had no regrets on the technologies it had so far introduced for the conduct of elections in Nigeria as they had helped in deepening the process and transparency.
Dazang said that the Commission was also reviewing its voter education to enable it to explain better the planned technologies to Nigerians. “In reviewing our voter education, we are looking at certain dynamics including the technologies that the commission intends to introduce.
“We have to be on top of the matters so that we can explain the application of these technologies to Nigerians as we did when we introduced SCR, direct data capturing machines and PVCs,” he noted. Dazang described voter education as a key part of the electoral process that needed concerted efforts, not just from INEC, but all stakeholders.
On the amendment of the Electoral Act, Dazang said that the Commission was working seriously with two committees of the National Assembly, adding that substantial gains were being made on the amendment.
He expressed optimism that NASS would rise to the challenge in meeting up with its promise to Nigeria to amend the Electoral Act before the end of the first quarter of 2021.
The WFD Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Adebowale Olorunmola, expressed the Foundation’s continued determination and support for INEC to deepen voter education in Nigeria, especially at the grassroots.
He said that the Foundation started its partnership journey with INEC in 2015 in ensuring more inclusion of women and people living with disability in electoral process. Olorunmola commended INEC for deepening voter education and more inclusive electoral process for women and people living with disabilities.
He said that the workshop was key in enhancing voter education from the current way to wider and deeper ways to improve on future elections. He said: “There is nothing like advanced democracy anymore, but work in progress. “If you look at what has been happening in the U.S., even with their decades of practising democracy, they are still moving to deepen voter education.”