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Should Nigeria embrace electronic voting?

Should Nigeria embrace electronic voting?

By Maria Famakinwa
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Electronic voting also known as e-voting is the act of using electronic system to cast and count votes. There have been calls from different angles that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should embrace the system in the next general elections to correct some electoral malpractices and prevent loss of lives  witnessed in the last general elections in Nigeria.

More worrisome was the attitude of the politicians to buy the conscience of the electorate through vote buying. Vote buying is now rampant in Nigeria and there is the need to embrace  e-voting citing United States of America and Canada with less electoral violence.

    Those championing the idea of e-voting argued that it will reduce to the bearest minimum the new trend of vote buying, ballot snatching, thuggery, manipulation of election results, killings, militarisation among others as they maintained that it is faster and better which also provides greater accessibility to people with disabilities unlike the current system where disabled people will still need the assistance of others to thumb print at polling booth.

    One of those who believe that the country is ripe for e-voting is the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) National President, Comrade Chris Isiguzo who has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to send an executive bill on electronic voting to the incoming 9th National Assembly for consideration and passage. Reacting to the outcome of the 2019 general elections held recently, the NUJ president said, “Electronic voting would advance the course of Nigerian democracy as well as address some of the lapses in the just concluded elections.”

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    Isiguzo who disclosed that the Union would release the full report of the 2019 elections after the supplementary elections in six states expressed concern over the new trend of inconclusive elections by the electoral body arguing that e-voting would be the key to the success of democratic process in the country.

     Sharing similar sentiment, Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) has also called on the INEC to adopt the electronic voting system in future elections for safety of life and for credible electoral process. President of CCN, Most Rev Benebo Fubara -Manuel disclosed this recently while briefing newsmen on the group’s observation during the just concluded general elections.

    His words: “Electronic voting system was widely advocated by Nigerians to guide against the killings which often characterised our electoral process. This should not be happening at this stage of the nation’s democracy. We pray Almighty God brings comfort to the families of citizens who lost their lives during the election.”

    Also charging INEC to encourage the use of electronic voting, Ondo State former Chairman of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Mr Isaac Kekemeke said that adopting the style is a panacea to vote buying and will reduce and eradicate all forms of electoral malpractices.

    He added that vote buying is a human factor surrounding our election that will fade out with the introduction of e-voting. “I think we must begin to see how to reduce the human factor as well as reducing papers in our electoral process. Let us begin to look at a system where electronic voting would be encouraged to that issues that might arise from collation centres, wards to States and national level could be avoided.”

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     A political scientist, Mr Adeolu Ademusayo who also argued that introduction of  e-voting system will right many wrongs in the electoral system wondered why something as important as voting still done on papers in a world where anything can be connected to the internet. He listed some of the advantages of e-voting to includes increase voters participation and confidence in electoral system, reduce cost, reduce violence, vote buying, manipulation of election results, save time and energy among others.

    He said,”the primary advantage of e-voting is the speed at which results can be tallied and reported unlike the traditional paper methods where ballots must be collected from various polling locations and consolidated at a central location before INEC sifts through them manually. This process is very time consuming leading to major delay in the announcement of results. E-voting makes results available almost right away because votes are counted as they are cast which helps to guide against any form of results manipulation.”

    Speaking differently, a public servant, Mr Idowu Akinwale revealed that the only solution to our electoral process is for the umpire to truly be independent as they are often claim to be instead of calling for e-voting. “I do not see e-voting as the solution to the country electoral system because it can be hacked. As with any electronic device, there is always the possibility that someone without authorization might have access to it, alter the results and get away without a trace.”

    Akinwale who maintained that electronic voting also have its demerits further revealed  that such system of voting cannot be trusted because anybody could present any ID card different from voter card to vote since they carry same information.

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When told that it could be done like BVN that can only be used by the original owner said,”Let us wait and see how such will work because Nigerian politicians can go to any length to break rules and manipulate results to favour their interest. If we have been using e-voting before, I am very sure that it would have been abused and by now, we would be calling for paper voting because there is nothing desperate politicians cannot do to achieve undeserved victory.

    “Also remember that e-voting is created and operated by private company that can be bought over by highest bidder among the politicians. How do one guarantee that such company will remain unbiased? The only solution to our electoral process as far as I am concerned is getting electoral umpire that will not be appointed by the President for the body to enjoy absolute independent to carry out its constitutional duty because he who pay the Piper, dictate the tune. “

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