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    Manny Emecheta

    Arising from the call by the President, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Prof. David Adewumi, for members to address relevant Information Technology (IT) development and IT sector issues in light of the 2015 electoral process; I have updated my earlier submission.

    It would be interesting to know the roll of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) with respect to the use of ICT for the 2015 elections. As the Professional body, was NCS invited to partner with INEC in the application and deployment of ICT for the 2015 elections? Which body / Consultants carried out the required audit of the proposed Card Reader Machine? Are the Consultants registered with the Computer Professionals Registration Council (CPN).

    In my opinion, to achieve the 29th May, 2015 swearing-in of the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, INEC should not use the Card Reader machines for the 2015 elections.
    Since the election dates MUST not be shifted again, INEC should allow all eligible and registered voters, to vote with either the Temporary Voters Card (TPC) or the Permanent Voters Card (PVC), in order to ensure that many registered voters are not disenfranchised.
    As can be observed, the rescheduling of the elections by six (6) weeks, from February 14, 2015, was a blessing in disguise.

    A situation where Lagos State Resident Electoral Commission is still expecting some PVCs; alien PVCs sent to Ogun State; Cross Rivers State got Imo State PVCs while Cross River PVCs were found in Kebbi State; about 2,000,000 PVCs yet to be produced for States in the South, etc. and most importantly, the failure of the Card Reading machine in Enugu State, when it was being demonstrated to journalists and members of the Civil Society Organization, is not acceptable for a free and fair election.

    Arguing against the use of TVC, Prof. Jega informed the distinguished Senators that some people with TPC had multiple registrations, hence such people were identified and removed from the Voters Register and such voters would cause problem at Polling Stations if they do not find their names in the Register. Multiple registrations are electoral offences. Therefore, a solution is to list the names of voters with multiple registrations at the Polling Stations and such people should be informed of the offence they committed and the reason they were barred from voting. With this, such offenders are not likely to cause problems as they could be arrested and prosecuted.

    Considering the challenges associated with production, distribution and collection of PVCs, the expected performance and the failure of demonstrated Card Reader Machines, I do not see the electoral value the Card Reader Machines would add to the process in this 2015 election. Therefore, registered voters with either TPC or PVC should be allowed to vote and majority of eligible voter willing to vote would do so.

    The use of Card Reader Machines for the 2015 elections would cause problems. Firstly, the Card Reader is programmed to stop authentication of voters by 1.00 p.m. If it takes about one (1) minute to authenticate a PVC or voter and working for 5 hours (8.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.), a Card Reader would only authenticate about 300 PVCs or voters in a Polling Station. Where a Polling Station has 650 registered voters, it means that 350 voters would be disenfranchised. The more registered voters in a Polling Station, the more voters that would be disenfranchised. This problem could be resolved by providing more than one Card Reader in a Polling Station. However, this is not the case as this situation was not envisaged.

    Secondly, considering the fact that INEC personnel and required materials might not be available at a Polling Station at 8.00 a.m., to commence accreditation, it means that less than 300 registered voters would be authenticated by the Card Reader in a Polling Station. What would happen if INEC personnel and materials do not get to a Polling Station until 12.00 noon due to logistics problem? Your guess is as good as mine.
    Thirdly, while the Card Reader is programmed to authenticate voters in specific Polling Stations, the Card Reader can also be programmed to pass and allow all PVCs read. Would the Card Reader identify under aged voters there were issued with PVCs? Has System Audit been carried out on the Card Reader Machines and by whom? Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO).
    Fourthly, the high per cent rate of distribution and collection of the PVCs recorded in most part of the North, were due to the fact that the distribution were through the Emirs, District Heads and politicians, instead of collection by owners of the PVCs. This made it difficult for non-indigenes to get their PVCs. In Lagos, several PVCs of non-indigenes were destroyed. This is why I advocate for the use of both the PVCs and TVCs. In an election were several eligible and registered voters are disenfranchised, it cannot be seen as fair, free and credible.
    Lastly, our system of government is similar to that of the USA and being an advanced country, the USA does not use Card Reader in their electoral process.

    As an IT Professional and among pioneers in the development and deployment of Systems in the country, I would naturally support the use and application of ICT in any component of the electoral system because it would add value to the system. However, this is not the case. The demonstration of the proposed Card Reader failed to meet the expected performance in the two places that I know; the Senate and in Enugu. In the Senate, it took about one minute to authenticate one PVC. As indicated earlier, at this rate, it can only authenticate about 300 PVCs in 5 hours. In Enugu, the journalists and Civil Society groups invited by Prof. Onukogu were disappointed as the machine failed. If the two Card Reader Machines demonstrated by Professors could give them challenges, how would the several ad hoc staff of INEC that are yet to be trained on the Card Rader, cope with operational challenges during elections?

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