By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, Wednesday, said he has no regrets for insisting on deploying Smart Card Reader machines for the conduct of the general election, saying he knew that the decision would attract unwarranted attacks on his integrity as a person.
Would-be riggers the ones crying foul, says INEC boss
Jega, who stated this while unveiling the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in Abuja yesterday,, maintained that it is only those that hitherto nurtured plans to fraudulently manipulate the outcome of the elections, that have been crying foul over the introduction of the technology which he said would only add credibility to the electoral process in the country.
He said that INEC had perfected all its strategies and put every apparatus in place with a view to ensuring a hitch free poll that will reflect the summative choice of Nigerians.
“Let me use this opportunity to reassure Nigerians that we believe that we have done everything possible to ensure that the 2015 general election is successful. We are adequately prepared in terms of both logistics and manpower. Likewise, all the security agencies, especially the police which have a lead role to play in terms of providing security during elections, have assured us that they are ready.
“Beginning from today, we are commencing the rolling out of non-sensitive materials. Likewise, from Friday, all the sensitive materials will be retrieved from the vault of the Central Bank Nigeria by our officers, accompanied by security operatives and representatives of the political parties”.
He said that the materials would be distributed to states from where it would be taken to local government areas and subsequently to the ward level.
Jega further highlighted the fact that the commission has provided and reasonably equipped Registration Area Centers, RACs, “to ensure that both our staff in various states and security agents spend few hours of the night on Friday there to enable them to be ready to deploy the sensitive materials on the election morning”.
He assured that there will be remarkable reduction in the delays that were previously experienced in the commencement of elections, as well as retrieval of materials at the end of election.
However, the INEC boss said it was regrettable that the results of the election will not be electronically transmitted to the collation points. He said though INEC initially piloted the procedure at two previous elections in Cross River and Niger States, “we decided that we will not put the electronic transmission of results to use in 2015 in view of the controversies the procedure might likely generate from those who don’t see anything good in what we are doing as a commission.
“We can see the dust that the introduction of card readers raised. So we decided to keep piloting and improving on the system beyond 2015, hopefully, by 2019, the commission will introduce it for the general election”.
‘They know card readers ‘ll stop alteration of figures’
On the issue of the card readers, Jega, who stressed that the process will help address concerns about the alteration of election figures to fraudulently confer advantage on some candidates to the detriment of others, said no such thing would happen this time around.
“This is indeed why they have been attacking me because they know that the card reader machines will help us to address all those irregularities, starting from the accreditation of voters at all the polling units. How can they manipulate the election when all the information with regards to the number of voters that turned out at every polling unit is automatically captured and transmitted by the card reader machines?
‘We have made rigging impossible for them’
He continued; “We have made rigging impossible for them as there is no how the total number of votes cast at the polling unit could exceed the number of accredited persons. Such discrepancy in figures will be immediately spotted. This technology will further make it impossible for any corrupt electoral officer to connive with any politician to pad-up results”, he added.
Besides, Jega noted that in the past, dubious INEC officials usually delayed the entry of number of accredited voters until the end of voting so as to have the leeway to tamper with results, a problem he said would be obviated by the smart card readers.
He said that both the card readers and the result sheets would be taken to the ward levels, “once there is evidence of tampering, the information saved in the card reader will be retrieved.
“To my mind, these are some of the reasons why many of them are opposing the use of the card readers. The crooked ways they used in the past to get away with manipulation of election results have been dealt with. This time, with the card readers, such fraud will be easy to establish.
“We have further made arrangement that all the results coming to local government collection centers will be scanned, transformed to PDF format and uploaded on our website so that anybody can go there and confirm result from his polling unit.
“We believe that this is an added value to our process, it is something that we have not been able to do in the past. Let me also use this opportunity to advise political parties to pay attention to the appointment and accreditation of agents they will deploy at the polling unit level.
They should not appoint people without credibility, who can be bought over by other party agents”, Jega stated.
Police promises adequate security
Earlier at the event, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, who was represented by the force public relations officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, expressed the readiness of the Nigeria Police Force to provide adequate security during and after the elections.
He said that particular attention was being focused on the protection of NYSC members that will work as ad-hoc staff for INEC during the elections.
“Infact, we are already prepared for the 2019 elections. Those who taught the Nigeria will disintegrate by 2015 are in for a disappointment. Our men are well prepared, trained and motivated to carry out their responsibilities during the election. We are also working with other law enforcement agencies to have adequate security manpower”, Ojukwu said.
In a statement that was read by the Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, Mr Clement Nwankwo, the Civil Society Situation Room, urged Nigerians to go out en mass to exercise their franchise and defend their votes.
“It is important for all Nigerians to recognize that beyond the partisan divisions and the outcomes of the electoral contests, the future of Nigeria is the main issue at stake”, it added.
The situation room is a coalition of over 60 Civil Society Organizations that are involved in monitoring elections in Nigeria.