POLITICAL pundits observe that although the use of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and the Card Readers in 2015 elections have generated controversies among Nigerians, both are well thought-out to guarantee credible and fair elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) explains that PVC is a voting card that carries an embedded chip containing the biometric data, including photograph and finger prints of registered voters.
It also says that Card Readers are hand electronic devices which will be used to authenticate PVCs and the original owners of such cards during the elections.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has on many occasions, observed that the use of the Card Readers would increase the credibility of the election process because of its advantages.
“Once the Card Reader is configured, it can only read PVCs issued by INEC at the polling unit that it has been configured for.
“It reads the embedded chip card not the barcode; it enables authentication of the identity of the voter by matching his or her finger print with that code on the chip of the card.
“It keeps a tally of all cards read and all cards verified or authenticated with all their details, including the time when this was done,’’ he explained.
Jega also said that the information from the card could be sent to a central server which would enable INEC to audit results from polling units.
“It will as well as do arrangement of statistical analysis of the demographics of voting, something INEC has never been able to do effectively.
“The ward collation officer can use this information to audit polling unit result sheets and to determine whether accreditation figures have been altered, a common feature of electoral fraud in our jurisdiction,’’ Jega added.
According to INEC chairman, PVCs are made to last for more than 10 years and can be used for the 2019 elections.
With this explanation, however, some political stakeholders and civil society organisations have commended the innovations while others are sceptical and call for cautions on the use of the two instruments for 2015 elections.
The sceptics argue that the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) do not make provision for the use of electronic voting.
In perceptible response to this, Jega, while briefing the Senate on Feb. 18 on the commission’s preparedness for the elections, insisted that Card Readers would only be used for accreditation of voters during the general elections.
He said that the commission would not revert to manual accreditation of voters during the elections and would not use temporary voter cards for elections.
According to Jega, the use of the Card Reader will not contravene any section of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act.
“INEC is empowered by Section 16(4) of the Electoral Act, 2010, to, wherever it considers it necessary; replace any voter card for the time being.
“An election is said to be validly conducted if it meets certain basic requirements, including accreditation of voters.
“The use of Card Reader for the purpose of accreditation of voters is one of the innovations introduced by the commission to improve the credibility of the electoral process.
“It is not offensive to the Electoral Act or to the 1999 Constitution. It adds value to the desires of Nigerians to have a credible election in line with international best practice.
“Although Section 52 of the Electoral Act prohibits the use of electronic voting, the Card Reader is not a voting machine; it is only an electronic machine introduced to improve the integrity of the voting process,’’ he said.
He insisted that INEC did not see the need for an amendment of the Electoral Act to accommodate the use of Card Readers.
“It is not electronic voting, it is verification. There is a difference between voting and the voting process.
“Anybody can go to court on anything but we believe we have not done anything wrong,’’ he said.
He assured Nigerians that if any card reader developed problem, it would be replaced, saying: “we have enough spares to deploy before the end of the accreditation at 1 p.m.
“If we cannot replace before the end of accreditation, then the election in that particular point will be postponed to the following day when a new Card Reader will be provided.
“If you say, if a card reader fails, we go back to manual voting, we are worried that everywhere, we will revert to manual accreditation because there are many people who don’t want card readers to be used.’’
Jega said that INEC had tested the card readers for durability and functionality and was satisfied with the results.
Speaking on the availability of the Card Readers, Mr. Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, said that the commission had configured and distributed more than 154,000 Card Readers to states.
Idowu also described as false the allegations that the Card Readers had not been tested ahead of the elections.
“Leaders of political parties were mostly the first set of people for whom the Card Readers were tested.
“The Card Readers have also been tested at INEC for the members of civil society organisations and journalists.
“When the traditional rulers and religion leaders were called for a meeting where they brought their PVCs, we tested their cards with the Card Readers,’’ Idowu said.
He said now that INEC had more time before the general elections, the Card Readers would be subjected to more tests.
“The commission has directed that Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) should undergo stress testing of the Card Readers in their respective areas,’’ Idowu said.
Expressing optimism on the effectiveness of Card Readers during the elections, Senate President David Mark told INEC that: “we have so much confidence that you will organise free, fair and credible elections.
“We will like to win our elections but we want to win in free, fair and credible elections.’’
Sharing similar sentiments, Malam Garba Shehu, the Director of Media and Publicity, Presidential Campaign Organisation of All Progressives Congress (APC), urged INEC to ensure the integrity of the forthcoming elections via the use of the PVCs Card Readers.
All in all, concerned citizens call on INEC to use all available legal methods and innovations that will guarantee fair and credible elections to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.

Related News