Ahead of the upcoming 2019 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held a stakeholders workshop to address issues around the conduct of the polls.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu informed the people on plans of the commission and its position on some of those issues.
1. PVC hacking
The INEC chair says the commission is armed with “credible information” that politicians were buying up PVCs from citizens as part of a new vote buying scheme.
“In some instances, telephone numbers and details of bank accounts of voters have been collected. By collecting the PVCs, their intention may be to deprive the voters of voting since no one can vote without the PVC. By collecting their phone numbers and bank details, the intention is to induce voters by electronic transfer of funds to their accounts since it will be difficult to buy votes at polling units.” But Prof. Yakubu said the exercise was in futility. He said that INEC systems were immune to such tactics. “By collecting the VINs, they may be acting on the mistaken notion that our system can be hacked into and the card readers somehow preloaded ahead of election and compromised.”
INEC would no longer proceed with plans to electronically transmit results from polling units. The chairman who announced the now cancelled plan about a year ago blamed the lack of a legal framework to pursue it. “In the absence of legal backing for electronic transmission, the commission can only do a nationwide pilot in 2019,” he said. As you know, President Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which would have given legal backing to the E-transmission.
3. Smart Card Readers
The INEC chairman emphasised that smart readers would be used to accredit voters in the 2019 elections. According to him, the SCRs would verify the identities of the voters by ensuring that the PVCs match the biometric information of the presenter. “The card reader shall be used to authenticate the fingerprint of the voter as an additional confirmatory procedure. If the fingerprint is not authenticated by the card reader but the PVC is confirmed as genuine and the voter’s personal details are consistent with the manual register, he/she shall be allowed to vote.”
4. Incident Forms?
The INEC chair announced changes to the use of incident forms which were usually completed by people who fail biometric authentication as a result of challenges with SCR system. In the past, Presiding Officers complete the form on behalf of, and without the involvement of the voter. But this is going to change.
“Where the biometric authentication fails, the voter will be required to thumbprint a box next to his/her picture on the register and to enter his/her mobile telephone number before proceeding to vote.”
5. Campaign Finance
INEC promises to keep an eye on the issue of campaign finance. It is generally believed that a lot of parties and candidates are in violation of the rules but that INEC is not doing enough.
“In particular, we shall closely monitor spending by parties and candidates as well as individual and group donations to campaign organisations. We will discharge this regulatory responsibility diligently,” stated Prof. Yakubu.
“The commission has designed campaign finance reporting forms to ensure compliance with the reporting requirements by parties. The EC16C for annual finance reporting by parties, the EC16D for income (including contributions and donations) and EC16E on party expenditure are already available on the commission’s website.”
Saying it is one thing, having the teeth to actually bite if parties offend is another matter altogether.