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Card readers constitutional, says INEC

2015-02-18 22:50
A ballot box filled with ballot is pictured before being counted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at a polling station in Yenagoa in Bayelsa State ~ PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Abuja - Prof. Attahiru Jega, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that only card readers would be used for accreditation of voters for the general elections.

Jega made this known while briefing the Senate on Wednesday in Abuja on INEC’s preparation for the elections.

He said that the use of the cards was constitutional, insisting that the commission would not revert to manual accreditation of voters during the elections.

He assured that if any card reader developed problem, it would be replaced.

Jega told the senators that the commission would not use Temporary Voter Cards (TVCs) for election under any condition as being canvassed in some quarters.

He stated that the use of the card reader would not contravene any section of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.

According to him, the use of PVCs and the card reader for the conduct of the elections, we believe, is in accord with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.

Also read: INEC set for public enlightenment on smart card readers

"They were introduced also, pursuant to the powers granted to the commission by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

"INEC is empowered by Section 16(4) of the Electoral Act, 2010 to and I quote: ‘wherever it considers it necessary, replace any voter card for the time being’.

"An election is said to be validly conducted if it meets certain basic requirements, including accreditation of voters.

"The use of the card reader for the purpose of accreditation of voters is one of the innovations introduced by the commission to improve the credibility of the electoral process.

"It is not offensive to the Electoral Act or to the Constitution. It adds value to the desires of Nigerians to have a credible election in line with international best practice,” he said.

The INEC chairman clarified that the use of the card reader would not amount to electronic voting, explaining that though Section 52 of the Electoral Act prohibits the use of electronic voting, the card reader was not a voting machine.

According to him, the card reader is only an electronic machine introduced to improve the integrity of the voting process.

He stressed that INEC didn’t see the need for an amendment of the Electoral Act to accommodate the use of card readers.

Jega said that for the purposes of ensuring that the electoral process was credible, the card reader would be used in the verification of voters.

"In the likely event that a card reader fails, we have enough spares to deploy before the end of the accreditation at 1 p.m.

"If we cannot replace before the end of accreditation, then the election in that particular point will be postponed to the following day when a new card reader will be provided.

"If you say, if a card reader fails we go back to manual voting, we are worried that everywhere we will revert to manual accreditation because there are many people who don’t want card readers to be used.

"The likelihood of card reader failing is slim; we had solid legal advice and we do not believe it violates legal provisions.

"It is not electronic voting, it is verification. There is a difference between voting and the voting process.

"Anybody can go to court on anything but we believe we have not done anything wrong,” he stated.

Jega disclosed that the commission hoped to utilize the six-week election date extension period to carry out voter education and public enlightenment.

He also pointed out that so far, the commission had tested the card readers for durability and functionality and was satisfied with the results.

While enumerating the advantages of the card reader, he said that it would increase the credibility of the election process.

"Once the card reader is configured, it can only read PVCs issued by INEC at the polling unit that it has been configured for.

"It reads the embedded chip card not the barcode; it enables authentication of the identity of the voter by matching his or her finger print with that code on the chip of the card.

"It keeps a tally of all cards read and all cards verified or authenticated with all their details, including the time when this was done,’’ he said.

"This information can be sent to a central server using an SMS; the stored information on the server will enable INEC to audit results from polling units.

"It will as well as do arrangement of statistical analysis of the demographics of voting, something INEC has never been able to do effectively.

"The ward collation officer can use this information to audit polling unit result sheets and to determine whether accreditation figures have been altered, a common feature of electoral fraud in our jurisdiction,” Jega added.

He disclosed that the PVCs were made to last for more than 10 years, and as such, could be used for the 2019 elections. 

Read more on: inec  |  abuja  |  politics

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