As Nigerians look forward to electronic transmission of election results in next year’s elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that the country is close to transiting to electronic voting.
Also, INEC has revealed that it would use 1.4 million adhoc staff to conduct next year’s election.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday, at Editors Forum organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) as its contribution in deepening democracy ahead of 2023 elections, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said Nigeria has already met three of the four requirements for electronic voting.
Earlier, in his welcome address, President of the NGE, Mustpaha Isah, said members of the Guild were ready to partner with the commission to conduct credible elections in 2023.
He, however, noted that the partnership would not stop the media from monitoring the conduct of the commission and its level of compliance with the laws of the land relating to the conduct of elections.
Yakubu said for electronic voting to be used, there must be biometric identification method, which is already in place in the country.
Yakubu said the second requirement for electronic voting is electronic accreditation, which the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) has taken care of.
The third requirement, he said, is electronic transmission of results, which would be used in the next general election.
He said the fourth requirement, which is not yet in place in the country, is the provision and use of electronic voting machines.
Yakubu said with attainment of three out of the four requirements, the country is close to adopting electronic voting, revealing that the INEC will perfect what it has, preparatory to the use of electronic voting in the near future.
“With us already meeting three requirements, we are close to electronic voting,” Yakubu said.
The INEC Chairman revealed that the commission would use a total of 1.4 million adhoc staff in the more than one thousand polling booths across the country.
While revealing that there are about 84 million voters in the country, he said INEC was cleaning the voters register to take care of double registrations and other infractions.
On the challenges INEC is facing in relation to 2023 elections, Yakubu listed insecurity and misinformation on the social media.
He said while the country contended with insecurity only in North East in 2019 elections, the challenge is now widespread in many parts of the country.
The INEC Chairman said in the midst of insecurity, the commission is worried about security of its staff, adhoc staff, election materials etc.
He expressed hope that the security agencies would ensure security during the elections for a seamless exercise.
Yakubu said there is much disinformation in the social media relating to elections.
Citing instances, he said there was once a social media report that Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) running into millions were discovered in a drainage in Rivers, when the quantity is far higher than registered voters in places.
“If two million plus PVCs are dumped in Rivers, for instances, does it mean that there were no voters with PVCs there?” he queried.
He also cited reports on underaged voters, with photographs which were first published in 2003, as an instance of falsehood in social media.
Yakubu urged Nigerians to join hands with the commission for a successful election next year, saying that there will be 28 governorship elections, 109 senatorial election, 360 House of Representatives elections and 960 state Houses of Assembly elections to be conducted next year.
In a related development, the INEC says no new registrants from the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has been added to the Voters’ Register for next year’s e lection.
A statement by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said that no new voter would be added to the register until the required activities for their integration are concluded, as specified by the law.
He said: “The attention of the commission has been drawn to a report of a press conference addressed by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) on the Register of Voters for the 2023 general election.
“The commission recognises and respects the right of citizens, either as individuals and groups, to demand explanation from public agencies, including INEC, and to hold them accountable.
“However, it is always important that caution is exercised so that such interventions do not unwittingly sow doubts in the public mind, thereby diminishing public confidence and trust in the electoral process.
“It Is important to reiterate that no new registrant has yet been added to the Register of Voters for the 2023 General Election or will be included until these supplemental activities have been completed in line with the law.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we restate the main components of these activities.
“ First, the Commission is conducting a comprehensive Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) cleanup of the registration data by scrutinising every record.
“Based on the Electoral Act 2022, any record that does not meet all the criteria for inclusion as stipulated in Section 10, including the appearance in person by the registrant at the registration venue with proof of identity, age and nationality and our business rules requirements of adequate number of fingerprints and clear pictures will be invalidated.
“Further, in line with Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, after the ABIS and clean up, the Commission shall appoint a period of seven days during which the register will be published for scrutiny by the public for objections and complaints.
“Finally, it is only after the clean-up and claims and objections have been completed that the final register will be published.”