Worrisome Lapses Mark INEC’s Test Of Card Readers
• Card Readers Fail To Recognise Fingerprints
• The Facts Have Spoken For Themselves – PDP
• Service Chiefs, INEC Assure Of No Further Postponement
DESPITE the controversy over the deployment of electronic card reader machines for the conduct of the March 28 and April 11 elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral management body, yesterday, went ahead to test run the car readers in selected states, in order to ascertain the fitness of the machine for the election.
Reports from some of the states showed it was a mixed bag, as marginal success were recorded in some places and in in others, it was outright disappointment for prospective voters, whose fingerprints were not recognized by the machines.
In Ebonyi, where the exercise took place in 24 electoral units of Izzi Uhunu ward of Abakaliki local government, it ran amid complaints by some voters that their thumb prints could not be recognized by the card readers to match what was in the register of voters.
While verification of permanent voter cards was successful in most cases, authenticating the same cards through finger print resulted in hiccups and this was very much defined at Nkaliki Echara Primary School 2, UNIT 010, where out of about 20 voters verified, only about four were authenticated successfully.
At Edukwu Inyimagu Hall, when The Guardian visited also in Abakaliki, only two voters were successfully authenticated out of the close to 67 persons that were verified, with the card readers beeping, “verification failed” as prospective voters placed their fingerprints on it, even when their pictures and names were located on the electronic register.
In a bid to address the challenge thrown up by the card readers, INEC officials were forced to use detergent and water to wash dust off the fingers of the voters before allowing them to place their fingers on the card reader machine, which also did not help matters.
Reacting, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Dr. Lawrence Azubuike, noted that there was nothing to worry about since the exercise was intended to test-run the machine in a kind of dress rehearsal.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday said it had noted series of complaints from Nigerians regarding reported lapses experienced in the exercise and was waiting for INEC to make its observations.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh in a statement said the worrisome fall-out from the test “vindicates earlier widespread calls by stakeholders that the card readers should be thoroughly tested
to ascertain their workability for free, fair and credible elections before being deployed for the actual polls.”
The ruling party expressed worry over the reported lapses, which it said included non-verification of voters’ fingerprints even after authenticating their PVCs, slow accreditation process as a result of poor Internet access in some locations, and apparent inadequate knowledge of the card readers by both INEC officials and voters.
“Our response to the emerging problems and challenges from Saturday’s testing of the card reader is ‘RES IPSA LOQUITOR’- the fact speaks for itself. The PDP and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians await INEC’s official response and or its final decision after such defining challenges,” the party said.
In Lagos, what was particularly worrisome was the poor turnout of prospective voters for the exercise. Though the exercise was remarkably successful, five persons out of 45 voters at Onigbongbo Ward, Ikeja, could not complete the exercise.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State yesterday described the exercise as successful. The party said it was a huge success and evidence of INEC’s readiness to conduct fraud-free poll devoid of acrimonious disputes arising from flawed electoral exercises of the past.
In Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State, INEC recorded an incident of purported cloned permanent voter card during the exercise. The incident took place at Ward One, UBE model primary school, Oromineke/Ezimgbu in the D-Line area of Port Harcourt.
Eyewitnesses told The Guardian that a group of youths arrived the primary school and one of them presented his card for verification. But when a trained INEC staff inserted his card into the card reader machine, it was rejected. When the young man started yelling, his card was inserted in several machines and they all rejected it.
When The Guardian visited the unit, an official of the electoral commission who pleaded anonymity explained that the purportedly cloned card was meant for Unit 6, Ward One and that the holder of the card had insisted that he was registered in 2011.
Reacting, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the State, Mrs. Genial Khan, who later arrived the scene, said she was pained that the man who presented the cloned card was not arrested.
“The man was very lucky that I didn’t catch him, I would have arrested him and used him, as an example to others. It is regrettable that by the time I arrived he had disappeared. His name is not on the register, his card did not pass through the card reader, so on what account did he want to be accredited?” She said.
In Minna, the Niger State capital, the exercise took place in Shiroro local government area of Niger state amidst complaints from stakeholders over time the process will take during actual accreditation of voters on election day.
Although various stakeholders expressed satisfaction over the transparency of the process, they however urged INEC to increase the time for accreditation of eligible voters from five hours to seven in order to cover up for time taken for card readers to authenticate the cards.
They observed that the time for the accreditation of each voter during the test run took more than a minute, which may pose a problem during the elections.
The turnout was impressive, the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Honorable Umar Musa Ma’ali commended INEC for the out come, apart from the issue of time.
In Kano State, the exercise, which took place at Dan Maliki ward in Kumbotso local government was described as generally peaceful.
In Anambra, the test run, which took place at Igboukwu Ward One was not a good one for INEC. Most of the card readers serially rejected voters’ fingerprint, even after they had gone forth and back to wash their hands with soap. A member of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) who monitored the outing in Nasarawa, but refused his name to be mentioned in print said there are issues with the machines recognizing fingers of voters.
Meanwhile, rising from a meeting yesterday in Abuja, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Attahiru Jegga, the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh , the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abbah assured Nigerians that the rescheduled elections billed for March 28th and April 11th would not be postponed again as there is no constitutional backing for any further postponement.
The trio gave this assurance when they met with the National Peace Committee on the 2015 General Elections Committee chaired by the former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar in Abuja.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting on behalf of the committee, former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Roseline Ukeje said, “They all assured the committee that there will be elections on the dates set out and there is no fear of a further postponement because there is no power in the Constitution to further postpone the elections”.
Ukeje noted that the INEC chairman insisted that even as at 14th of February, they were ready to conduct the elections only that they were more ready now because many more cards have been distributed.
On position of the committee on the deployment of the military during the elections, she said” It was clear that the role of the military in the elections is unambiguous. Right from the previous elections in this country, the military operates from the background. They don’t get involve at the polling areas, the two main parties APC and the PDP were satisfied with the explanations and that is the position of the committee”.
Ukeje who observed that the issue of the card readers was discussed noted that the test run of the card readers started today adding that INEC Chairman said there were no failures, and that the committee is satisfied with the explanations given.
She said people should not misconstrue the card readers to be an electronic voting device. It’s not, it is for accreditation of voters so that the data of that voter would be verified and certified before voting. Ghana used it and it worked and that it will work in Nigeria.
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