Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill sent to him by the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has resolved to use card readers during the 2019 general elections but ruled out the electronic transmission of results.
The rejected 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.
However, INEC chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu said the commission would deploy card readers in every polling unit in the country just as it did in 2015.
Yakubu, who spoke during the public hearing on the menace of vote buying and improving the country’s electoral processes, said the commission had finished all preparations towards the use of the card reader.
The public hearing was organised by the joint National Assembly committee on electoral matters and political parties’ affairs jointly chaired by Sen Suleiman Nazif Gamawa (PDP, Bauchi) and Rep Aishatu Jibril Dukku (APC, Gombe) respectively.
However, the INEC chairman said the commission was yet to configure the card readers to match specific polling units, noting that INEC will do that in the coming weeks.
Responding to questions from some senators and stakeholders, Yakubu said: “For those talking about whether INEC would use card reader during the 2019 elections or not, I want to assure that INEC will deploy card reader in every polling unit in the country.
“This is an assurance from the commission, and we are ever ready to do that, although we are yet to configure the card readers to match every polling unit.”
Meanwhile, at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room National Stakeholders Forum on Elections same Monday, Yakubu, who was represented by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education at the Commission, Festus Okoye, said: “INEC will continue to follow its timetable and schedule of activities as well as its strategic plan.
“The Commission assures the Nigerian people that the Smart Card Reader has become an integral part of the electoral process and will be deployed for the conduct of the 2019 General Elections. The Commission has taken on board the glitches faced in the use of the Smart Card Reader in 2015 and has made significant improvements and upgrade in the Smart Card Readers.
“The upgraded Smart Card Reader is more robust and has new features to store additional data and transmit election results. The Commission has also redesigned the voters register and abolished the use of Incident Forms. However, every PVC must be verified and authenticated by the Smart Card Reader before a voter will be allowed to vote.
“The Supreme Court of Nigeria commended the introduction of the Smart Card Reader in the electoral process and the Commission will not compromise on the use of Smart Card Reader for the 2019 General Elections.”