On E-voting and E-transmission of Results in Nigeria
By Sani Danaudi Mohammed
AREWA AGENDA – More than six decade after independence, Nigerians have continued to cry for a free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in line with globally acceptable norms. It has been said that no nation and kingdom has ever raisen beyond the capacity of its leadership.
This means that for Nigeria to grow socially, politically and economically, then better alternatives aiimed at improving our electoral processes should be encouraged by Political stakeholders. Electronic voting and Electronic transmission of election results should be seen as one of the practical solutions to most of the ongoing electoral malpractices that have mared the process of selecting Political leaders in Nigeria.
It is believed that an election plays the most important role in sustaining a democratic system anywhere in the world Particularly in developing countries like Nigeria.Free,fair and credible elections has become a parrot cry not only to the electorates but even the contestants.
Most devoloped countries whose template Nigeria is currently using, has for long accepted that it is only a process that gives room for free and fair election that holds government responsible and forces it to behave in the interest of voters.
The e-voting and e-transmission of election results has in the last week remain a dominant issue of national discourse though priorities are shifted to our deversity instead of National interest. The uproar in the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives over this amendments spoke volumes of the level of conspiracy against our baby democracy.
Trouble started when the red chamber attempted to amend Clause 52(3) of the new Electoral Act. The joint National Assembly Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters had recommended that INEC should reserve the power to transmit results by electronic means where applicable on the day of the election. Section 52(3) as originally recommended provides that: The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.The amendment agreed on eventually is that the Commission may consider the electronic transmission of results provided the National Network Coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communication Commission and approved by the National Assembly.
Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral commission INEC Professor Attahiru Jega raised concerns that Electronic voting without electronic transmission of results is counter Productive and May affect the credibility of the future elections in Nigeria. I share in his perception on this and there is need to support all processes that may improve transparency and accountability in our future elections as the 2023 is fast approaching.To me ,the decision of the House of Representatives to call on INEC to address the House on its readiness by 2023 to deploy electronic transmission technology for our elections is highly commendable.
As a leader of an advocacy group of young Northerners that are using mostly digital means to sensitise our Youths on the need to restructure their minds to give peace a chance. It is high time that Nigeria should develop a frame work that will ensure that our votes counts so as to increase Community participatory democracy. The Nigerian Senate has approved the sum of 4.86bn for National Intelligence Agency to track SMS, WhatsApp and calls of Nigerians targeted at the criminals elements like Bandits/Kidnappers,Boko Haram kingpins. Those that are testing the strength of our State appratus are the focus of this project as against the narratives of exclusion by the opposition that it is targeted at the citizens.
Some gullible minds have been corrupted to believe that this loudable crusade is a calculated attempt to short-change a particular region in the fourth coming elections.This shallow thinking has for long remain an obstacle that has denied us access to our destiny. I watched the proceedings of the House of Representatives where the minority Members stage a walk out as the amendment is passed amidst protest leaving behind so many controversies. For how long can our electorial process be subjected to the 19th century fashion of manual voting?, It is high time Nigerians begin to think outside the box and always support policies and programs aimed at improving our Electoral process.
There is no justification and no amount of words or explanation can convince the right thinking Nigerians who critically see beyond their nose that e-voting and e-transmission of results in Nigeria is not possible because of lack of network coverage. As the time the country has approved funds to track calls and SMS of its citizens aimed at fishing out the bad eggs that mostly operates in mounteneous forest then e-voting and e-transmission will be very easy to achieve if there is political will.
According to the archives of the Independent National Electoral commission INEC ,We have 84,004 084 population of eligible voters which represents 41 percent of the current Population of Nigeria projected at 206 Million. In 2019 ,It was only 49.78% that turned out during the 2019 general elections which means that INEC is expected to to develop Capacity to ensure that Nigeria go for e-voting and e-transmission of results ahead of the 2023.
Suffice to say that Nigeria has moved electronically in other areas like the banking sector, Examination conducts such as JAMB, WAEC, to mention just a few which further proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Nigeria is very capable to go for e-voting and e-transmission of results if there is Political will.
As a concerned Nigerian, I am appealing to the federal Government in collaboration with the National Assembly through the Independent National Electoral commission, INEC, the body saddled with the responsibility of conducting free ,fair and credible elections in Nigeria that there is need for them to work together and develop a frame work that will give room for Electronic voting and Electronic transmission of results in Nigeria in no distance time.
The federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy should direct the Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC) and all the Service Providers to urgently connect all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria with network. This is the first step towards achieving digital switch over in Nigeria where Electronic voting and transmission of results is the dominant point of discussion today.
This is my submission as far as elections are concerned in Nigeria because it will increase the transparency of the country future elections and transmitting results directly from the poling units to the collation centre will eliminate rigging. Hijacking of election results by Political elites Particularly those that pocket Resident Electoral Commissioners in their States will be eradicated.We are living witness of cases where House of Representatives and Senatorial elections took INEC more than two days to announced winners because of the pressures from their State Governors.This is the only way to go and anything short of this is nothing but a mere narration centred by sentiments only.
Sani Danaudi Mohammed is the National President, Arewa Youths Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative . He writes from Bauchi via [email protected]
Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young writers/journalist from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives