Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Dr. Ibrahim Isa Pantami has urged the electoral umpire, the Independent national Electoral Commission, INEC to collaborate with all relevant agencies of government to deliver free and fair elections.
Pantami said the only way the Commission can guarantee hitch-free election is by automation of the entire electoral process across the country.
He made the assertion on Tuesday shortly after collection of his Permanent Voters Card, PVC at the Government Secondary School, Gwarimpa, Abuja..
To achieve this feat, he advised the INEC to recognize the importance of synergy with sister agencies relevant in the electoral process and collaborate with them to be able to deliver credible and acceptable elections in the country.
According to him, the electoral body must recognize the need for the National Identity Management Card being issued by the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC and the Nigerian Immigration, which he said will enable the Commission ascertain the authentic citizens resident in the country and eligible to vote in a particular election.
‘‘It will be very easier for us to have a free and fair elections, if we are serious about our National Identity Management Card. With this, we will be able to know the number of people in the country and any tampering, we will cross-check but if we do not have a data base, it will be difficult for us to manage the future election processes.
‘‘At the level we are going, we will reach a level everything will be automated and most importantly, no system is 100% secured. More importantly, INEC has a lot of role to play. They should know that no single agency can do it alone. If they have expertise in conducting election, for sure they do not have expertise in Information technology.
‘‘For example, they have no capacity to verify the true citizens of the country so that other people will not come here to vote. That is why inter-agency collaboration is very important. But sometimes, when we feel that somebody can do it alone, then that will be the beginning of our down fall.
‘‘INEC should understand that they cannot do it alone. If they want free and fair election, the first thing they should do is to identify the relevant institutions and the role they have to play so that they can come together and have and have an effective team and make it more successful. I hope in the subsequent elections, we will improve electronically bit by bit until we reach a level it will be 100% electronically.’’
On the possibility of hacking INEC in the coming elections, the NITDA henchman adduced, ‘‘in IT, no system is 100% secured all over the world, some 79%, some 60% and some 90%. When something is online, it is exposed to so many dangers, even during the last election in US, which Russia tampered with.
‘‘This tells you that it is much difficult to conduct free and fair election when everything thing is done online because the way things are safe guided today, people are trying to alter it. But with voters card and card reader, this is bit more and relatively safer, electronic accreditation process.’’
Speaking of the PVC collection process, Pantami, who is INEC Ambassador, said, ‘‘I am happy the process is every smooth one. It is one of the ways one should exercise his citizenship to choose leaders he feels that can represent him.
‘‘I am very satisfied because they friendly to people. It did not take more than three minutes. The process had started before the last election but did not complete it before I moved to Saudi Arabia. Now I resumed back to Nigeria, it is necessary I complete the process and that I have done.
‘‘It is an encouragement and recognition for INEC to honour me as an Ambassador. I feel they see I have something to offer and the best way to support them is to encourage people to come and register or collect their cards.
‘‘I came here in person to collect my card to encourage other persons to come and collect theirs because one vote is very important in Nigeria, particularly the many elections we conducted in the past, you will see that the gaps were very insignificant.
‘‘This tells you, we should not undermine the power of a single vote, no matter how you are or want to bring change. Without collecting your card, you can only rant in the social media and tweeting and change nothing. The only way you can make change is by voting and making sure your vote counts. That is why I am here, I encourage other people to make sure they collect their cards and ensure their votes count.
‘‘It is very wrong for one to feel sad about the elections when they have not been conducted. The most important thing is that the President has been urging the security agencies to be neutral, he has been telling them to make sure the election is free and fair. This is very important and commendable. We should vote and make sure the votes count.’’