By Oluwatobi Opusunju
The Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shelved plans to use electronic voting (e-voting) for the 2019 general elections due to security concerns and what INEC deemed as weak technology diffusion within Nigeria’s election space.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at a recent three-day International Conference of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in West and Southern African countries in Abuja declared: “Let me say categorically that the commission will not be deploying technology for electronic voting in the 2019 elections.”
Yakubu while speaking to newsmen at the conference with the theme: ‘Opportunities and Challenges in the Use of Technology: Experiences from West and Southern Africa,’ said the country’s was not yet ready for e-voting.
National elections in Africa’s most populous country of 198 million people is scheduled for February 16, next year.
The elections ombudsman said the commission will only use technology for collation and transmission of election results. The 2019 election results are expected to be transmitted via the satellite backbone of NigComSat-1R, owned and managed by Nigerian Communications Satellites Limited (NigComSat). INEC has also involved the Nigerian Communications Commission for the engagement of the country’s national telecom operators to help deliver accurate election results in real-time from polling units to the various collation and declaration centres.
No use for Nigeria’s e-voting box
“We will deploy the technology for collation and transmission of election result from polling units to INEC result collation base,” Yakubu stressed to effectively ruled out the possibility of e-voting despite local efforts led by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), an agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology, to have the elections conducted with its indigenously produced electronic voting machine that is solar-powered.
For the Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Ogbonaya Onu, INEC’s position will be a disappointment. The minister had canvassed for the use of the e-voting machine to eliminate frauds associated with manual voting in Nigeria.
But INEC’s decision may have been informed by numerous security challenges that come with e-voting. Some stakeholders had warned that e-voting technology does not offer immunity to fraud or error counts.
Fears over hackers
In 2017, the US invited hackers from different parts of the world to attempt to break into its electronic voting machines in a bid to uncover any inherent flaws in the technology. Despite assurances by voting machine manufacturers and authorities, over 30 e-voting machines setup by the organizers in a manner similar to a real life voting were easily hacked in less than two hours raising concerns about the fidelity of the e-voting process.
Yakubu said while technology is an enabler and can engender a seamless electoral process, elections shouldn’t be about it. He said it is more about promoting confidence and trust in the people. His words:
“The brainstorming was to look at the adoption of technology in all the areas of electoral process and how to provide secure platform for the transmission of election results without hindrance.
“We are to deploy technology within our various legal frameworks within the regions. Election is not just about technology, it is about the confidence of the people in the electoral process.”
The conference urged EMBs to ensure that the deployment of technology for elections are secured in law and protected against intrusion in order to foster confidence in voters.