11 December 2018

Nigeria: How We'll Deliver Clean Election Without New Electoral Bill - INEC

Abuja — Irrespective of President Muhammadu Buhari's veto of Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has worked out strategies to deliver a free, fair and credible election in 2019, using enhanced smart card readers.

The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill had incorporated the card reader for the purpose of giving legal backup to the technology adopted in authenticating the Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, of those eligible to vote.

The absence of the card reader in the Electoral Act became an issue when the Supreme Court dismissed contentions against the election of some governors on the basis that the card readers deployed were not used.

INEC, Vanguard learned, has also decided to address incidences of manipulation of the card reader by some delinquent adhoc officials.

To this end, Vanguard learned that the commission has also decided to make provisions for recording "incidents" within the voters register unlike in the past when Incident Forms were used as separate documents.

A top INEC official, who did not want his name published because he is not the official spokesperson of the commission, said: "On incident form, the fact is that the forms are now created within the voter register and not outside of it as the case was in the past.

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"In essence, the data sheet of the voter register has now been modified to address the challenges associated with failed authentication, while at the same time providing a trail of voters affected for eventual back end remedies."

However, the official, who had been largely involved in helping the electoral umpire develop cutting-edge technological solutions to electoral challenges, recalled how in the 2015 general elections, some INEC field staff tried to deliberately discard the use of the card readers.

He said the card readers have now been optimized both in terms of the hard and software, a development he claimed would solve many of the challenges associated with past elections in the country.

He said: "What we have today is the Enhanced Smart Card Reader. The enhancement is in two phases, hardware and software.

"As for the hardware, the card readers now have a broader fingerprint scanner, additional memory, tamper proof facilities, better battery compartment locks and more durable battery.

"For the software, the card readers now have better finger print matching algorithm, more secure platforms, recapture of fingerprints after four failed attempts at authentication, automatic setting of date and time and many more."

"In 2015, some of our staff did not want the card readers to work because they were resistant to change. They would remove the batteries of the smart card readers in which case all the information stored inside would be lost.

"So, we have now ensured better battery compartment lock which means that many of those who would handle the card readers would not know how to remove the battery again and even when they do remove the batteries, the stored information are not lost.

"On automatic setting of date and time, partisans have accused us of sometimes pre-loading the card readers. What they mean is that we allow other politicians to buy voters cards and then assist them to load on to the smart card readers in the various Polling Units and put the system ready for use before the election and then submit the card readers on election day.

"In 2015, we noticed a slight use of this in some Polling Units. So, we now have automatic setting of date and time with the card reader communicating with the server within a specific time on election day. Any time before or after the specified time, nothing can be loaded on to the card readers", he explained.

Another top official of the commission collaborated the claims.

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