Published On: Tue, Oct 31st, 2017


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October 30, 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari,

Office of the President of the

Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Aso Rock Villa,

Asokoro District,



Dear Sir,


With regards to the fact that the current Senate has amended the Electoral Act of 2010, legalizing the use of Card Readers for authenticating the identity of voters in future elections, we believe it is a milestone step in the right direction towards entrenching credible elections in Nigeria. The dawn of electronic voting, is upon us and we are urging members of the National Assembly and the Presidency, to expedite action towards making this a legalized reality.

The said amended Act has also empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit election results through the electronic device from polling stations to the collation centre. A development we believe, will save Nigerians the headache of waiting into the odd hours of the night just to get election results. Though the House of Representatives is yet to make its own amendment before the said bill could be presented to the President for his assent, we believe this development is worth commending, and should not be delayed any further.

If we are to examine the prospects and challenges of e-voting in an emerging democracy like Nigeria, we would see that the advantages far outweigh whatever challenges it may bring. It is evident that the said legislation is a response to the long-standing public clamour for an electoral system that would eliminate or reduce the disputations that usually occur after elections. We can recall how Prof. Attahiru Jega spent hours tallying the last Presidential votes in 2015, using calculator, wasting hours on a job that could be done in nanoseconds on Microsoft Excel? Prof. Jega did not finish until 3.30am in the morning. Even at that, the election results still raised some dust that made many to question its credibility and reliability. Most of these things can be addressed, or minimized, if electronic voting is entrenched in our electoral process.

Since 1964, elections in Nigeria have been very problematic, chaotic, burdensome and unpleasant, where; ballot boxes often develop wings and losers are declared winners by the electoral commission. When those boxes resurface at the counting centres, they are stuffed with multiple thump-printed ballot papers. Results declared at the polling centres are usually at variance with those submitted at the collation centre. In a recent editorial, Leke Salaudeen noted how Nigeria’s quest for electronic voting dates back to the Second Republic when the Chairman of the defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO), the late Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey, mooted the idea for the 1983 general elections. The plan was vehemently opposed to by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He threatened to call out his supporters to smash the machines, because he had lost confidence in the electoral body to conduct a free and credible election. Again, in 2006, when the former INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, proposed electronic voting for the 2007 polls, it was greeted with criticism. The pan–Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, rejected the innovation, saying that the country was not ripe for it. The organization cited low literacy level and lack of time to ascertain its worth and workability. Besides, it alleged that Iwu had a hidden agenda. Afenifere described e-voting under Iwu as an electronic rigging mechanism.

A former Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Abubakar Kyari, who commended the upper legislative chamber for scaling the constitutional hurdle against electronic voting, by amending Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Act that prohibits e-voting system, noted some very vital points when he said: “If you remember the fallout of the 2015 election was the use of the Smart Card Reader. You will also remember court judgments that did not accept the use of the Card Reader as part of the process of accrediting the voter. You will also understand that the Smart Card Reader is not used in voting, but used as a means of accrediting a prospective voter. We also had minor lapses with the Smart Card Reader during the 2015 general elections. One thing is certain: the Card Reader did not fail to read cards, what they failed to do was to tie the cards with the individuals through their biometrics. The Card Readers refused, in some instances, to connect the biometric fingerprints to the cards. So, there were many problems with Smart Card Readers.

“What we did in essence was to authenticate the use of Smart Card Readers as a means of accrediting a voter in the Electoral Act. That is one of the major landmarks that we have embedded in the Electoral Act. Another major amendment is the use of any other electronic devices for election. The Smart Card Reader, as the name connotes, is specific to reading the smart card. But, what we have now done is that we have also given INEC opportunity to use any other technological devices in the process; not necessarily sticking to the Card Reader. We have expanded the definition of that instrument or any other instrument that will guide INEC in terms of accreditation. We have also given INEC the powers to introduce the electronic voting, through any technological devices that the body may deem fit, if it thinks the time is right.” His assertion is contained in the amended section that states: “The commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be by the commission from time to time.”

When we consider the fact that the Nigerian experience with democracy has for long been marred by a fraudulent electoral system whereby ballot stuffing, snatching of ballot boxes, manipulation of results and compromise of electoral officials to falsify results had become the norm, all of which have made people to have lost confidence in Nigerian elections and the results they produce; then we would realize the importance of us having biometric voting in any future elections cannot be overemphasized.

However, we should not be ignorant of the challenges that e-voting will pose for the country because of its current level of democratic development. Analyst have noted that some of these serious challenges must be addressed for the new system to work. For instance, it will be a disaster to conduct electronic voting in remote villages that are not connected to the national grid. In other words, the introduction of e-voting is a challenge for Nigeria to improve on her power supply. Under electronic voting system, the results must be transmitted electronically. How many wards are connected to the data base? We need to reform our social infrastructure that will make this new device work. It is good the Electoral Act has recognized Smart Card Readers, which the Supreme Court had refused to accept in some of its election petition judgements, because it was not provided for in the Act. INEC should make provisions for 30 to 40 per cent back up, to avoid the embarrassment usually caused by Card Reader failure on the day of election.

A software engineer, Bassey Ekong, said e-voting, if properly administered, will improve the credibility of the elections, de-emphasize the militarization of polls and increase transparency. He said since e-voting gives little or no room for manipulation during the voting, its adoption would reform and clean up the process. Ekong said the e-voting system saves cost and time, adding that it increases participation by citizens and eliminates human error in vote-count, while re-counting is eliminated. However, the software engineer said infrastructure is the major challenge. He said: “Nigeria lacks the machines and software required for the functioning of the e-voting. We are not particularly known for our skills in technology and as a result, the electoral commission employees will have to learn how to operate the machines. “With the intractable challenge in electricity supply and the poor Information Technology (IT) skills of the majority of our population, INEC must start preparation immediately if it plans to use e-voting in 2019.”

Another expert noted that e-voting will go a long way in reducing litigations as INEC can provide verifiable evidence in court. The engineer believes the crisis of confidence and lack of trust in Nigerian electoral system would be restored. with the introduction of e-voting, voters will no longer travel back to their wards to cast their votes; they can vote from anywhere in the country. Furthermore, INEC can monitor the entire process easily as each electronic voting device is equipped with a tracker and can be configured to shut down immediately voting ends. E-voting allows for easy cross-checking through printout, just as checklist used by observers to collate information from short code messages and GSM phone line; it can be used to bridge time between accreditation, election and declaration of results, as it reduces declaration of wrong figures which manual voting offers.

While it is imperative for the National Assembly and the Presidency to hasten steps towards entrenching the e-voting policy into the country’s electoral system for future elections, we also advise INEC to take cognizance of where such devices/e-voting technologies have worked in existing democracies across the globe, and see how this can be replicated in Nigeria. More so, the decisions on acquisition and deployment must be subjected to rigorous due process in order to ascertain what is best for the country and the people.



Zik Gbemre, JP.

National Coordinator

Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC)

No.28, Opi Street, Ugboroke Layout, Effurun-Warri,

P.O. Box 2254, Warri, Delta State, Nigeria.

Tel:       +2348026428271



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