By Emeka Aginam
Following lapses in the adopted processes for the registration of voters, the umbrella body representing all IT professionals in Nigeria, the Nigeria Computer Society, (NCS) has slammed the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) for non-inclusion of the nation’s IT professionals in a matter that borders heavily on professionalism, saying that Nigeria may not achieve best practice in the 2011 elections if the lapses, especially on software were not redressed.
Last year, the NCS had a Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) with INEC which was to be executed to serve as basis for further relationship. The essence of the MOU, it was gathered, was to have a platform with which to assist INEC in the application of IT in the forthcoming elections. But since the submission of the MOU to the INEC headquarters in Abuja in August 2010, CyberLIFE learnt that INEC has maintained sealed lips over it. With this, NCS officials have made efforts to get a feedback on why the MOU has not been executed but all to no avail.
While calling for transparency to achieve best practice in 2011 elections using IT, the IT professionals had earlier in Friday 19th November, 2010 demanded among other things from INEC:
lThat all personnel carrying out core IT professional duties in the Commission (INEC) must be registered professionals as stipulated in Act 49 of 1993;
lThat all persons to interface and operate the DDCM (Direct Data Capture Machines) MUST be trained and certified by professional institutions registered by CPN;
lThat all contracting firms who are not registered with CPN should have their contracts revoked; and
lThat subsequently, only registered members of the computer profession should be considered for jobs involving computing machinery.
With the current posture of INEC, NCS President, Professor Charles Uwadia at a press conference last week in Lagos told IT journalists that there was urgent need for the Commission to redress the identified lapses as failure to comply will attract legal action on their part for non-compliance with the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as stipulated in Act 49 of 1993.
“We have since consulted our lawyers on the threat of legal action, and you will be duly informed on the next step. We cannot continue like this. We cannot watch while the future of Nigeria is at stake. Something has to be done We are not interested in any contract. We are not interested in INEC’s jobs. We are only interested in free and fair election using IT,” he explained.
On the way forward, Uwadia reiterated their earlier recommendation that: INEC should be transparent and fully unfold its strategies for deploying IT for the entire electoral process so that professionals could offer advice and support as deemed necessary and appropriate.
“As you are aware, INEC commenced Voters registration nationwide on Saturday 15 January, 2011; the exercise is expected to last for two weeks. As Nigerians, we are all living witnesses to the difficulties and challenges many Nigerians are having in participating in the exercise,” he said.
“ INEC, under the leadership of Professor Attahiru Jega, has so far kept IT professional bodies (NCS and CPN) at bay for reasons best known to him. If we are to answer the question which many Nigerians have been asking as to what went wrong in spite of the enormous funds committed to the exercise, the simple answer will be that INEC failed or refused to involve IT professionals in a matter that borders heavily on professionalism.