Issues in Kaduna LG poll, electronic voting
• El Rufai Demystify INEC, But Silent On Procurement Integrity
• We Cannot Trust Him, Says CNPP
Kaduna State government made history recently by its ambitious recourse to electronic voting in the local government council election. The state governor, Nasir Ahmad El Rufai, indicated that his concern was more about the credibility of the process than achieving 100 percent victory for his party.
Perhaps, as a result of that bold statement, when the result of the poll started emerging, there were outcomes favourable to the opposition contrary to what usually obtains from similar exercises in other states.
However, while Governor El Rufai exults in making a radical change in the way council elections are held in states, there are certain crucial issues, which his innovation need to explain.For instance, neither the governor nor the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIEC) indicated the contractor that supplied the electronic machines for the election. More importantly, neither the 1999 Constitution nor the Electoral Act sanction the use of electronic voting, outside voter registration and accreditation before voting.
The procurement of the machines was also not a product of due process, especially against the background of subsisting public procurement law, which all states in the federation ascribed to. Over and above concerns for legal framework and due process, a black spot of the Kaduna innovation is the non-disclosure of the producer or brand owner of the software, as well as, the involvement of stakeholders in the acquisition of such a sensitive item in electronic voting.
But, despite those shortcomings, national chairman of United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, which has been in the forefront for the adoption of electronic voting said what took place in Kaduna LG poll appropriates to what his party has been calling for.Okorie said despite Governor Nasir El Rufai’s imperfections; he has become the revolutionary of Nigeria’s modern electoral system, adding that the use of electronic voting in the state has demystified the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its reluctance to go full blst on the use of Electronic voting.
The UPP chairman disclosed that the National Assembly had already passed a review of the Electoral Act, which accommodates Electronic Voting, but regretted that the legislation was held up by the controversial election sequence.Also. on the issue of infringing federal legislation, Hon. Nuhu Goro Shadalafiya, Chairman Kaduna State House of Assembly Committee on Information, told The Guardian: “It is not the prerogative of federal government to decide for the state on how to conduct there Local government election. Local government have been saddled with the control of the state.
“INEC has no any right to determine whether its appropriate for state to use EVM or not. That is why we call it state independent electoral commission. It is independent because it is a creation of a state, and the creation of a law by the state, that is empowered by the legislative arm of the state.
“So if we decide that we don’t want to use the electronic system, we will remove it from the law. The old law in its provision has no space for electronic voting, that is why the law has been amended to give room for SIECOM to use electronic voting.”It would be recalled that February 2018, the state government passed into law the bill, which allowed the use of electronic machines for council voting exercise. The law stipulated that verification and voting would be done through the use of approved electronic devices, Smart Card Reader and the electronic voting Machine.
In view of the foregoing, the State House of Assembly organised Public Hearing on the bill on Tuesday September 19, 2017, where majority of stakeholders present at the gathering kicked against the use of voting machine.The stakeholders declared that no state law supersedes the constitution and the Electoral Act of a country, saying that section 50 of the Electoral Act prohibit the electronic voting for now, urging both the State Assembly and the State Independent Electoral Commission to wait until the National Assembly complete the proposed amendment before them.
At the public hearing, the Kaduna State Chairman, Conference for Political Parties, Alhaji Umar Ibrahim, said the electronic voting if used during the local government elections may put the electorate to risk as people will be voting under the supervision of a qualifying operator of the voter machine and that it will abuse the right of one man one vote.
He argued that Kaduna State citizens need adequate education on how to vote electronically, which cannot be achieved before the council election. But the Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Abdullahi Shagali, said the state government has observed the way and manner local government administration had been running since 1999 and has come up with a realistic programme and direction for 23 local councils in form of the bill.
The council elections were however conducted on 12 May 2018, using electronic voting machines. The state governor Nasir El-Rufa’i also dismissed the assertion that the use of e voting was against the Electoral Act, saying that, “I don’t agree with that.”To him: “There is an amendment to the Electoral Act that President Jonathan signed a few days before he left office, which legitimizes the use of the card reader and other electronic systems for voting.
“So, in my view the current Electoral Act has provision for electoral voting. But, that is not even what we used in Kaduna. In Kaduna, we enacted our own Electoral Law that made provision for electronic voting machine and card reader, everything was totally legitimized and passed by our State House of Assembly and I think every state can do the same.”He declared that the current legal framework allowed the use of electronic voting machine.
Salisu Shuaib Dawaki, Publicity Secretary, Coalition of Nigerian Political Parties of Nigeria (CNPP) Kaduna State chapter, praised the state government for using electronic machine for the council elections, saying the initiative made the election process easier and comfortable.
While noting that “it is just the political players or rather the government, who introduced the machine that has problem,” Dawaki disclosed that “in some places they hijacked the result sheets only, because they cannot change the result printed by the machine, rather, they just changed the result written by the pen.”
“The machine worked perfectly, and along the line after the election, the ruling party went ahead to do what they liked. But, it was very difficult for them to change results, because of some little protection that it has,” he added, even as he urged INEC to adopt Electronic Voting, in order to ease suffering on general election day.
Dawadi remarked that opposition parties were not carried along before the adoption of EVM, stressing, “For the first time we did not buy the idea. This was because the kind of government that introduced the machine is one that cannot be trusted.“They wrote to us for contributions, which we did, and we depended on what we have presented to them, but at the end of the day, we don’t know how they changed everything. We cannot trust him (El-Rufai), because of his attitude of overheating issues. And he is normally desperate in getting what he wants, or remain where he is. Before, we were not in support, but after its usage, we realised there is nothing wrong with the machine.”
However, The Guardian learnt that the electronic voting machine (EVM) was built specifically for KADSIECOM by Chinese based SMPTECH, the same company that built the handheld PVC scanners for the 2015 Nigerian general elections. The EVMS are box like devices shaped in medium sized printers weighing 12kg.It was also gathered that the 6000 units of the EVM already procured for the local government elections has the list of 46 political parties that participated in the election.
The Chairman of KADSIECOM, Mrs. Saratu Binta Dikko, said the commission sensitized people across the 255 wards in the state, three days to the council election by bringing the EVMs to their wards for interface and interaction.She added that the EVM is simple to operate and adjustable, saying that it contains the logo of all political parties. “Concerning the E-voting,” she said,” we do have a back-end system, where we watch the elections as they progress on field so we could see what was happening, we could see the results developing and we transmitted the results also electronically.”
According to her, the system was very simple and secure, because one of the thing we want to do is to ensure that votes were secured, that the people’s mandate was not stolen from them.She remarked: “There is a facility on this machine that can actually read your permanent voter card and your finger print. Both of this can be deployed. I believe it’s totally possible for Nigeria to totally go electronic in voting, maybe not in this 2019 election, but future elections.”
A Civil Society Organisation, known as Legal Awareness for Women in Nigeria (LEADS) who monitored the elections however commended KADSIECOM and Kaduna government for the initiative, saying a lot of people who voted indicated that it was very easy.The Executive Officer of the organization, Barrister Rebecca Sako-John a lot people who came for the voting said it was quite easy and within a minute or two, you are done with your election.
“I also think some of the polling staff were not able to operate the machine well, but from what we got from observation was because some of them were inexperienced. Some claimed that they changed those that were trained with a new set of people on Election Day, but I cannot really verify that.“We deployed 255 observers, into each ward and then we have over 41 moving observers, some where in our situation room and we observed a lot of things with the process.
“First of all, there were issues with arrival of materials and because of the late arrival of materials in some places, some of the polling staff decided to do accreditation and then people waited for the EVM machine to arrive and so that was why in some polling unit, the number of people accredited were more than number of people who voted. We kept KADSIECOM informed about some of these issues they resolved,” John surmised.
A legal practitioner in Kaduna, Mrs. Gloria Mabiam Ballason, disagreed that the state government violated the 1999 Constitution by using the electronic voting machine, saying: “Local Government elections are conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission. The Laws that govern SIECOM are state Laws as opposed to Federal Laws.
“E-voting is an emerging mode of conducting elections In developed climes, that is the norm and not the exception. Electoral voting is supposed to enable a more transparent election and cut out human errors in the electioneering process. The expectation is that as the thumbs go down, the figures should go up to the clear view of the voters and onlookers.
“In the Kaduna case, we had a situation where elections were not announced until five days after votes were cast. The expectation of transparency therefore became a ruse for many. Voters were told that the reason results were not immediately announced were due to computation delay. “This is ironic as it puts to question the purpose of spending billions to procure those machines. To be clear, machines do not make for credible elections, people do. If politicians decide they want the result skewed a certain way, they can manipulate and conjure figures to fit their spleen.
“Therefore, while the machines are meant to make for credible elections, this expectation can only be met when people, politicians and those in government allow the process to be free and fair so that the outcome will reflect actual votes cast. Most of those who could not vote were people who had the temporary voter card. There was certainly no basis for this disenfranchisement, especially because the voter register used was that of 2015.
“There were voters who were flung to voting wards that they had not registered in. These errors need to be checked in the future elections.” It should be noted that some 31 opposition political parties announced their boycott of the LG poll in total rejection of the electoral procedures that involved Elecronic voting.
Among the opposition parties that withdrew from the Kaduna council poll include, Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Alliance for Democracy (AD), Labour Party (LP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), National Unity Party (NUP), among others.
Speaking at a press conference in Kaduna under the umbrella of Kaduna Coalition of Political Parties (KCPP), the chairman, Alhaji Umar Ibrahim said parties refused to participate in the polls, because the State Electoral body had decided to abandon INEC criteria for the conduct of elections in the country.
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