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March 28, Nigerians’ day of commitment

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An election official uses a fingerprint reader on a voter at a polling station in Abuja during presidential elections on March 28, 2015. Problems with new technology forced a 24-hour extension to the presidential election in Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria, and renewed Boko Haram violence hit the knife-edge vote. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLE SOBECKI

An election official uses a fingerprint reader on a voter at a polling station in Abuja during presidential elections on March 28, 2015. Problems with new technology forced a 24-hour extension to the presidential election in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, and renewed Boko Haram violence hit the knife-edge vote. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLE SOBECKI

When Nigerians trooped out last Saturday to exercise their voting rights, the enthusiasm of their commitment was palpable as many defied the elements to choose their Presidential and National Assembly candidates.

While it was obvious that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to put in a seamless operation despite the six-week postponement, Nigerians exercised a lot of patients top make the system work despite all odds.

And in their enthusiasm, the barrier of social and economic class was broken in their commitment to contribute to the emergence of a political authority to manage their affairs in the next four years.

And in their enthusiasm, the barrier of social and economic class was broken in their commitment to contribute to the emergence of a political authority to manage their affairs in the next four years.

From the Victoria Garden City (VGC) located at the highbrow Lekki-Ajah corridor where hundreds of residents gathered to cast their votes even though electoral materials and officers arrived late and the card readers refused to work, to the backwaters of Ijora Badia, where prospective voters assisted INEC with lanterns to count the votes in the dark, Nigerians were united in their commitment.

The conduct of the exercise has shown that Nigeria is on course towards perfect democracy and that with the wish of Nigerians to make their voice heard which they demonstrated explicitly, and the dedication of the system to have a perfect electoral mechanism, the country’s status as the largest democracy in the black world will be enhanced.

The card reader

The latest addition to the conduct of election in Nigeria, the Smart Card Reader (SCR), perhaps generated the most controversy across the country during the exercise.

With the device which introduction is part of efforts by the INEC to employ modern technology to add value to the country’s electoral system, Nigerians were more assured that the new era of election management would produce a credible exercise.

The expectation was that the SCR would prevent the use of cloned voters’ cards by identifying the genuine ones and using the GSM technology, send information about accredited voters to a central pool of the electoral body such that before the start of pooling, INEC would have known the actual number of those who are going to vote.

Although the use of the palm-size SCR caused a lot of delays in most polling units, thereby dragging the process of accreditation far into the voting period, many saw it as a great innovation that assured Nigerians that their choice would be respected and be seen to be so.

In most instances it was discovered that the SCR did not function properly because of lack of enough handling techniques on the part of the ad-hoc staff of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who were supposed to have undergone a training programme on its usage.

For instance, many of the officials did not remove the thin film covering the surface of the print reader unknowingly preventing the device from capturing finger patterns for processing as the electorate waited endlessly on the queue.

The patriotism of Nigerians and their commitments to make the system work despite the hiccups, led many prospective voters to offer their assistance to the electoral body by removing the film and passing the information to other polling units through text messages.

And because of late arrival of men and materials to some of the units, coupled with the malfunctioning of the SCR, many voters, after waiting for the process to be concluded, assisted the officials in the provision of lanterns and in some cases, electricity generators, to light up the voting areas.

Courteous security personnel

Contrary to the fear that was initially raised over the deployment of military personnel to ensure peace, order and effective monitoring of the elections, hundreds of electorates across the country commended the Nigerian Army and the Police for peaceful and civil conduct throughout the exercise.

Stationed in strategic locations along Lekki-Ajah-Epe Expressway, Gbagada-Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue, Agege Motor Raod, Mil 12-Ikorodu Road and others, with armoured tanks and well-armed personnel, they only stopped and searched vehicles that were moving during the voting period and most of those found to be on official or essential assignments were cleared.

Reports gathered by The Guardian does not in any form indicates or prove any form of interference, harassment or involvement in the civil affairs throughout the elections y the military personnel.

One of the voters in Ibeju Lekki commended the military personnel for “perfect conduct during the exercise. They didn’t move close to where people were voting. Most of the people that were on the road testified to the good conduct of the security agents throughout yesterday.”



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