Recently, Kaduna State held its local government election and some issues about the viability of electronics in the voting system. Remarkably, for the second successive time, that state conducted it electronically. Reports indicate that the outcome was proof that electronic voting is not rocket science. With the right political will, it is doable. The success of the Kaduna experiment brings to the fore the argument for electronic voting and electronic transmission of results.
The bold move of the state government in this regard is commendable just as we hope that other states and even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will borrow the good example.
We recall that in July, the Senate was thrown into confusion and uproar as the senators considered the report on a bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, needed to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) elections.
After voting, the upper legislative chamber resolved that INEC may consider the electronic transmission of results provided that the national coverage is adjudged okay by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and approved by the National Assembly.
Fifty-two senators voted to support it; 28 senators voted against. The main clause says that INEC may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable as contained in the report under consideration, just as 28 Senators were absent.
It is gratifying to note that INEC had said it does not need the approval of the NCC to transmit election results electronically. The commission said the National Assembly’s decision to subject its power to conduct elections to the approval of the NCC was unconstitutional. It says, instead of seeking NCC’s approval, the commission has the constitutional mandate to impose duties on NCC to achieve the electronic transmission of results. INEC, in the eye of the law, is right.
No doubt, electronic voting and transmission will greatly improve the credibility of elections and reduce litigations after elections. It will also engender the confidence of the electorate in the democratic process.
It is important to recall that the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, in 2019 had disclosed that the commission was involved in over 1600 court cases arising from the February/March general elections. Experts believe that adopting technology through electronic voting and transmission of results will ameliorate if not entirely eliminate these frivolous litigations.
Furthermore, it posited that electronic voting will do away with the tendency by political misfits and their thugs to hijack electoral materials, kidnap INEC staff, engage in vote-buying, attack observers, intimidate voters, indulge in under-age voting, carry out widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, ballot snatching and multiple voting.
In our considered opinion, the best way to improve on the nation’s electoral process and reduce the incidence of violence and ballot snatching is to introduce electronic voting and transmission of results.
It is pertinent to point out that President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly attributed his victory in 2015 to the card reader which in many ways reduced incidents of rigging and added some modicum of transparency to the electoral process.
As the card reader strengthened the electoral system, politicians opted for vote-buying, snatching of ballot boxes, and instigating violence in their opponents’ strongholds.
We commend INEC for always working on new methods to improve the electoral system. The commission had said it will not tolerate voters whose identities fail the electronic authentication of its two-in-one accreditation device in the coming elections. The commission’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said the new device called the Z-pad, which has been integrated into the IVED currently used for voter registration, will help tackle the fear of identity theft during elections. He said the new device would be deployed in the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State. We appeal to the commission to demonstrate the courage of its conviction and do the needful to save democracy.
Although electronic voting is by no means perfect as seen in the Kaduna local government election, still, there is no doubt that its input will considerably reduce the violence and needless death in every election in Nigeria. Ballot box snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes will, hopefully, be a thing of the past.
From the foregoing, we call on INEC to experiment with electronic voting in the Anambra election. We believe in the capacity and independence of the commission to conduct electronic voting and transmission. The wishes of the electorate must be respected. Nigerians must be allowed to choose who governs them at all levels under arrangements that are free, fair and equitable. This is the essence of democracy.