National Assembly members are opposed to the move by the Independent National Electoral Commission to adopt electronic-voting in the 2015 elections
The commission, as part of the move, was pushing for the amendment of Section 52 (1) (b) of the Electoral Act 2010, which makes it an offence for INEC to use e-voting.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of INEC, Mr. Kayode Idowu, had said that the commission would work with other stakeholders to amend the law.
Investigations by our correspondents, however, showed that the commission had yet to contact the NASS on the proposed amendment.
The lawmakers, across six zones of the country, said that although the system could reduce electoral malpractices drastically, they were opposed to it because Nigeria was not ready for it.
They hinged their position on the dearth of infrastructure.
They observed that the Federal Government may be unwilling to provide the funding required to put the system in place.
The Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, Mr. Jerry Manwe, expressed doubt that the government would adequately finance the voting system.
Manwe, who is from Taraba State, cited the slashing of INEC’s 2012 budget from N52bn to N47bn.
He noted, “There are basic things that INEC needs to put in place, but is the government ready to fund them? We need a data-base for voters, which is not available yet.
“Besides, e-voting requires an amendment to the Electoral Act; there is no proposal before the House yet on this.
“So, on the whole, e-voting is contingent on how much fund the government can provide for INEC. E-voting is good and can reduce electoral malpractices.”
The Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, said he would support the introduction of e-voting to the extent that the system would not be manipulated by election managers.
Gbajabiamila, who is from Lagos State, added, “E-voting as a form of voting is a good thing. However, we must look at its implications vis a viz the Nigerian context and environment.
“A free and fair election is perhaps the most fundamental requirement and a sine qua non for a democratic society. It is non-negotiable.”
A lawmaker from Delta State, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, observed that the system could disappoint Nigerians if INEC failed to train its members of staff well ahead of the introduction.
“It is a welcome development provided it will work and they (INEC) will train the local field staff before the election (2015) to avoid disappointment,” he said.
A lawmaker from Kogi State, Mr. Yusuf Tajudeen, noted that much as e-voting was good, Nigeria was not ripe for it.
He recalled that during the last electronic voter registration conducted by INEC, the commission was overwhelmed by “challenges such as battery problem and lack of capacity.”
Tajudeen said the lack of adequate power supply in the country was a major problem that counted against the system.
“It is not just saying that we want e-voting that is the issue, are we prepared for it?
“We don’t have the infrastructure to support it. In some states, it takes as much as three hours to travel to certain local government areas.
“If a battery runs out of power in such locations, is the INEC official retuning to the headquarters to get another one and continue with the election?
“There are challenges we have to address first before rushing to embrace e-voting,” he stated.
His views were shared by his colleague from Kaduna State, Mr. Adams Jagaba, who vowed to oppose e-voting whenever a proposal was tabled before the House.
He added, “We should not just copy what others are doing without considering their experiences.
“During the last registration, we saw what happened with the INEC machines because they had to rely on batteries.
“As far as I am concerned, this is a mere expression of a wish; if they bring such a proposal to the House, I will definitely vote against it.”
Senator Olugbenga Kaka (Ogun East) said Nigeria was not ripe for an electronic voting in the next general elections.
He argued that the dearth of basic infrastructure would defeat the good intentions and e-voting technology.
“I don’t think Nigeria is ripe for this at the moment. We must put necessary infrastructure in place first before deploying it.
“We have a low level of education in the country while most of the rural areas are not accessible,” he said.
Kaka said the e-voting could only be deployed after all the necessary infrastructure had been put in place.
Senator Ita Enang, however, said that Nigeria was ripe for e-voting provided the necessary infrastructure was in place.
Enang said instead of waiting till the last hour, INEC should begin preparations for the deployment of the technology.
Senator Victor Lar dispelled the argument that the nation was not ready for e-voting.
He said the 2015 elections would be crucial and would attract vigilance and thus required a system that would make them credible.
“The fear of lack of infrastructure can be addressed between now and 2015,” he said.
He added that there might be initial hitches, but with continued use, the system would be perfected as it happened with the DDC machines in the last general elections.
State governors have also been divided on e-voting.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, through the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, said he was in support of any innovation that would sanitise the electoral process.
The governor noted that all forward-looking countries in the world were already embracing e-voting, adding that Nigeria should not be an exception.
“Anything that is electronically-processed would obviously improve the capacity to sanitise the electoral process in the country.
“That is what they do in all advanced parts of the world and we support the move since it would improve the process and ensure transparency,” Ogeah said.
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State has also thrown his weight behind INEC on its plan to introduce e-voting in 2015.
The governor spoke through his Commissioner for Information, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye.
He hailed the decision of INEC to introduce the method, but advised that it must be well supervised to prevent its abuse by some elements who might not want it to succeed.
He said, “Dr. (Kayode) Fayemi is an advocate of democratic governance and one of the key elements of this is free and fair elections. That is the mandate of the people must be freely given in free and fair elections.”
On his part, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Sunday Akere, said the state government would support any credible election organised by INEC.
Akere, in a telephone interview with SATURDAY PUNCH on Thursday, however, accused INEC of ineptitude.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi said even though he was not averse to the use of e-voting in the 2015 elections, it might disenfranchise voters who might not have the needed infrastructure in the rural areas.
Ajimobi said INEC must address those challenges before considering the use of the system in the next elections.
He said this in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, on Thursday.
In Rivers State, the Peoples Democratic Party said it would always support any effort that would bring about the conduct of good elections in the country.
The party spoke through its Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr. George Ukwuoma-Nwogba, who expressed doubt over the country’s ability to handle e-voting, adding that the problem of irregular power supply could work against such plan.
Meanwhile, INEC has said that it will soon submit memoranda on the proposed e-voting to the NASS.
Idowu said on Thursday, “There are procedures, they have just called for memoranda, we presented a paper at their retreat, we are preparing a formal document.
“The way people are submitting memoranda is the same way INEC will submit its memoranda. We have highlighted what the commission wants to achieve.
“There is a plan to amend the constitution, there are many issues, the issue of appointing key officers of the commission is there. It is a long range of things; do we now pick one of them? We are interested in e-voting also.
“Having that law changed does not automatically mean that e-voting will be rolled out, we have to test it, but without the law, it is not possible to test it.
“We have discussed this at the Senate and the Reps’ retreats, and we are putting together the document that they have called for.”
by John Ameh, Josiah Oluwole, Abuja; Tunde Odesola, Osogbo; Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt; Femi Makinde, Ado-Ekiti; Emmanuel Addeh, Asaba and Kunle Falayi, Ibadan