By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
Though Nigeria’s 2015 general election was seen by many as free and fair, it had a fair share of irregularities attributed largely to the inability to produce real time data and other technical and man-made challenges.
As the 2019 election draws near, the Federal Government has shown commitment to ensuring the next general election is free and fair. It has begun training and embracing futuristic technologies that will ensure free and fair polls.
Speaking when he received the prototype of the solar-powered electronic voting solution with cloud-based (computing) collation of election results developed by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) in Abuja, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, said the voting machine would address issues and challenges that bedevil election processes in the forthcoming elections.
He said: “The electronic voting solution developed by NASENI is the solution to the nation’s election issues. It was specifically developed to address almost all the issues and challenges that bedevil election processes in Nigeria. It would be appropriate and beneficial for Nigeria to accept and adopt this indigenous solution for increasing the credibility of election processes.”
The minister noted that Nigeria has consistently spent billions of naira on the importation of foreign technologies for previous elections with negative impact on the economy, pointing out that NAENI’s intervention would not only create jobs but promote local technology.
“The nation consistently spends money on the importation of machines and equipment into the country and it has not been helpful to our economy. It has made the government to come forth with such innovation. We are losing a lot of jobs while we have engineers, scientists in the country without employment. This government is committed, not only for the economy to be revived but to grow and build a nation creating jobs for our people. NASENI is playing an important role on this note and will make sure that many of these machines are produced in order to reduce or stop importation of foreign ones.
“Many of the technical and mechanical problems faced in the course of electoral matters will be solved when this system is implemented. In January, NASENI came up with the plan for this electronic voting machine for the country with various demonstrations. Though impressive but not satisfied then, that made me impose a better result to make sure we deliver this machine all through solar energy and it is patent in a way that no one can obstruct its programming,” he stated.
He explained that the existing Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) permanent voter card (PVC) had been adopted for use in the new e-voting equipment, noting with satisfaction that the e-voting machine could print out the PVC within five minutes after registration.
“One of the great advantages of this innovation is that one can get his card within 5 minutes of registration but I implore NASENI to make it 1minute to achieve the goal faster and easier for all participants which is the essence of research work. With this development, Nigeria will be able to conduct election and also achieve results in one day like other countries. This will be very helpful in moving the turnout because democracy is about participation and if we achieve this, it will make Nigerians exercise their rights. As a citizen it is our duty to select who we desire to represent us but if we fail, the essence of democracy would be lost.
“Multiple voting is no longer acceptable or rigging taking place because of technology. The system also detects if the card has been used for that particular election. This new system nullifies all lapses faced by the previous system and again we want our results to reflect the true wishes of Nigerians and save our courts from having petitions of electoral matters, like the snatching of ballot boxes because in this instance everything is computerized, a system providing solutions to problems faced on election matters.
“The goal of innovation is to continue to improve on what we have at hand. The next thing to do is present this to INEC, possibly to the National Assembly and to the Federal Executive Council if necessary to show that we can probably do this,” he added.
Earlier in his remarks, the executive vice chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, intimated the minister of the great achievement on the innovation of the solar powered electronic voting machine.
Haruna said, “the consistent pressure from the minister on this innovation has made it possible today. Recalling on the familiarization of the electronic voting machine you saw on the plan back in January has been fully realized due to observations and shortcomings pointed out by the minister. Due to the importance and urgency of a free and fair election, INEC in 2011 identified numerous factors for a free and fair election in Nigeria, that was why we came up with a solution to cut cost and give a free and fair election to all Nigerians.”
He further pointed out that the machine, which relies on a robust hardware and software, also guarantees national, state and local government elections are conducted on the same day and at the same time.
Other special features which the NASENI electronic voting solution provides, according to him, are: it minimizes human interference to the election process, eliminates the use of ballot boxes, discards the use of paper ballot as well as eliminates multiple voting, among others.