The application of electronic voting ahead of the 2023 general election may run into a hitch after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disclosed that it is yet to get budgetary allocation to purchase the required electronic voting machines.
A top source in the commission disclosed this while speaking with LEADERSHIP in Abuja yesterday .
The top source said the National Assembly must first approve the budget for the commission before the commission will purchase the machines.
He noted that before the commission embarks on the procurement of such machines, it must get approval as well budgetary allocation from the National Assembly because it is capital intensive.
“We don’t have a budget, or the money to procure such capital intensive machines. Everything we do in the commission is guided by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The commission also said it is committed to conducting free, fair, and transparent elections in addition to deepening the use of technology during elections.
The commission had earlier said it was working on procuring at least 200,000 electronic voting machines.
The commission said, by its processes and procedures, it was dealing with four components of Electronic Voting System (EVS) which are Electronic Voter Register (EVR), Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), Electronic Voter Authentication (EVA), and Electronic Transmission of Results (ETR).
This is even as the passage of the 2021 electoral amendment Bill, especially clause 52(3), by the National Assembly has continued to generate controversy among Nigerians seeking electronic transmission of election results by the INEC as one of the ways of ensuring free, fair and credible elections. The passage was not without drama, chaos and what looked like a well-choreographed political trickery.
Reacting to the latest development, the national chairman of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, said halting the procurement of e-voting machines is the beginning of underground ploy at rigging the 2023 general election by the ruling All progressives Congress (APC).
The PDP national chairman, who accused INEC of trying to shirk its constitutional responsibility of defining how elections will be conducted, said the rejection of electronic transmission of results by the National Assembly does not mean e-voting cannot work since the issue has not been passed as law.
Secondus, in a statement from his media office, said every indication points to the unfortunate fact that President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the APC, are not working towards conducting free, fair and transparent elections in 2023.
The PDP chairman, in the statement, said he was reacting to a media report at the weekend showing that INEC was halting its procurement of e-voting machines ahead of 2023 because of the rejection of e-transmission of results by the National Assembly.
Secondus noted that since the existing Electoral Act and the Constitution give unilateral powers to INEC to conduct credible elections in Nigeria, the electoral umpire does not need National Assembly’s approval to carry out its legitimate duties.
He said, “From all indications, INEC is trying to abdicate its constitutionally assigned responsibility of conducting free, fair and transparent elections hiding under the cover of delayed amended Electoral Act or rejection of e-transmission of results.
“Nigerians and democratic observers globally are watching INEC ahead of 2023 and it will be disastrous if the Independent electoral body dances to the antics of the ruling party.”
Secondus contended that if this electoral commission was able to conduct governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states in September and October last year respectively without the amended Electoral Act, it can still do so all over the country.
He said PDP was worried at the development and would do everything legally possible to ensure the will of the Nigerian people is not thwarted again in 2023.
Secondus urged “all lovers of democracy within and outside the country to do everything possible to ensure that credible elections are conducted in the country in 2023 as anything short of that will gravely undermine democracy and indeed Nigeria.”