Last weekend Nigerians were shocked to discover that INEC’s branded permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) which are used for voting during elections are up for sale on Chinese e-commerce site, Alibaba.
Nigerians expressed worries over the sanctity and fairness of the electoral process if card readers can easily and cheaply be purchased online.
INEC released a statement last night to assuage the concerns. Signed by its director of voter education and publicity, Oluwole Uzzi, INEC said it had anticipated this situation where people would try to clone the cards and sell them online and had proactively taken measures to further secure electoral materials.
“Several security features and source codes are contained in the Smart Card Readers which enable them to read only PVCs duly issued by the commission,” INEC said.
INEC also said it is already working to “further secure the PVCs and the Smart Card Readers and will continue to protect them from unauthorized and malicious access. It is for this reason that beginning from next week, we are commencing the systematic hardware and software upgrade of all Smart Card Readers nationwide.”
Atiku campaign responds
The Atiku Campaign Organisation has responded to the news of the PVC sale with the DG, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, releasing an open letter addressed to the founder of Alibaba.com, Jack Ma. The letter was titled, “A matter of national security and electoral integrity involving alibaba.com.”
Dear Jack Ma,
Greetings and many congratulations for your entrepreneurial successes. I have great admiration for what you have achieved, especially coming from a humble background.
I write this open letter because my attention has been drawn to an egregious breach of Nigeria’s electoral integrity and thus our national security, by the sale of Nigerian Permanent Voter Cards, on alibaba.com
We are very concerned about this security breach because it threatens Nigeria’s desire to build strong institutions, like the Independent National Electoral Commission. A situation like this could lead to massive vote buying and thus thwart our efforts and instead create strong men where we want to enable strength in institutions.
Permanent Voter Cards were used in the 2015 Nigerian elections and the alibaba platform was also in existence then, yet we did not have this breach. That precedence leads me to believe that if alibaba.com refuses to lend its platform to those unscrupulous elements who want to thwart Nigeria’s democracy, we would greatly increase the chances of a free and fair Nigerian election in 2019.
Therefore, I appeal to you to use your good offices to permanently remove these items from alibaba.com
Furthermore, I do kindly ask you to consider sharing information with Nigeria’s security apparatus that may help expose any impropriety.
The world is currently witnessing the unfolding of allegations, counter allegations and investigations into election meddling in the 2016 American Presidential elections. These occurrences have ensnared several technology, IT and social media platforms including Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Twitter just to mention a few.
Their involvement has had far reaching political and economic impact which has affected their market capitalisation and consumer confidence. It is also in the light of preventing such a scenario involving Nigeria and alibaba.com that I make these appeals. I trust that I can count on your cooperation.
Thank you and please be assured of my continued admiration and my offer of a right hand of friendship.
Yours very truly,
Otunba Gbenga Daniel
Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation