By Dirisu Yakubu
Following reports of violence and mindless killings of innocent Nigerians in the last governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states; scores of prominent Civil Society Organizations have called for steps including legislative reforms for the take off of electronic voting in subsequent elections.
The electronic voting model, according to them would help address the perennial incidences of violence associated with the nation’s electoral process in the past few decades.
During the elections held two weeks ago, about 30 persons lost their lives including the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Woman Leader in Kogi State, Mrs. Acheju Abuh who was burnt in her abode, allegedly by those jubilating over the outcome of the exercise.
The mindless killings elicited calls in some quarters for the outright cancellation of the elections even as the international community expressed worry over the wanton destruction of human lives for something as routine as the periodic conduct of election to select new leaders whose business is the implementation of social contract on behalf of the people.
Speaking exclusively with Saturday Vanguard, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Rafsanjani called on the federal government to muster the courage to embrace e-voting in the interest of election sanctity and protection of lives.
He said: “Electronic voting will go a long way in addressing electoral irregularities. One form of it was the introduction of card readers which ordinarily would have been a process to build upon. The sad thing about electioneering in the country is the penchant of politicians to abuse and manipulate any process put in place to subvert the will of the people in choosing their leaders. While putting the electronic voting system in place, all agencies responsible for ensuring free, fair and credible election must perform their utmost in the realization of the objective.
“There were efforts to amend the Electoral Act prior to the 2019 general elections but the Bill passed by the National Assembly did not get presidential assent. This had implications to the manner in which the outcomes of the elections finally manifested. While electronic voting includes electronic registration, accreditation, vote counting, collation, transmission and announcements, the entire procedure was not followed.”
According to the CISLAC boss, “There have been arguments that the lack of power and internet connectivity across Nigeria may hamper the entire electronic voting system. This begs the question as most parts of the country has internet connectivity and where there are minor connectivity, special arrangements could be made to ensure that elections reflect the aspirations of the people.”
Speaking in the same vein, rights activist and Convener, Women Arise, Joe Okey Odumakin noted that “holistic reform of our electoral laws is at this point inevitable, as we must be able to clearly define the role of other critical stakeholders other than the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the conduct of our elections. Therefore, advancing towards an electronic voting system, as may be guaranteed by our electoral law, will be a major step towards addressing the dangerous descent of our elections into war.”
For Suraju Olanrewaju, Executive Director, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, HEDA, time to embrace e-voting is now as Nigeria can no longer continue to experiment with the old order that has brought about a harvest of blood, pain and anguish.
His words: “The ultimate target of INEC and the electoral stakeholders should be e-voting. The e-accreditation of voters introduced substantial transformation into our electoral process and reduced our experiences of pain normally associated with the old system.
“Though, there are obvious challenges to effective deployment and operation of the e-voting, they are surmountable with proper planning and conscious investment in infrastructural development by the government.”
Co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement, Aisha Yesufu on her part, urged the 9th Assembly to help sanitise the nation’s electioneering system by doing its part to pass relevant laws for the take-off of the e-voting system in the land, saying “We can no longer pretend that all is well with the existing system. E-voting is the way to go and regardless of the time and resources needed to have it on board, it should be embraced as quickly as possible.”
The 8th Assembly, it will be recalled passed a new Electoral Act amendment bill which amongst others provided for the take off of e-voting. President Muhammad Buhari in his wisdom however, declined to assent the bill, citing closeness to the 2019 general elections.