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El-Rufai’s Successful Experiment with Electronic Voting in Kaduna

Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State

September 12, (THEWILL) – Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State recently demonstrated that with the right motivation and determination electronic voting is possible in Nigeria.

El – Rufai is not like the proverbial lizard that jumped down from the Iroko tree unhurt without being applauded. On the contrary, his successful experiment was greeted with a loud applause from all lovers of democracy in the country.

Unlike many of his colleagues, who always work toward ensuring their party emerges victorious in all local government areas in elections conducted by the state electoral commissions in their respective states, the governor decided to put democracy on course by adopting electronic voting for the recent Local government election in Kaduna State.

El- Rufai said the success recorded in the election was an indication that electronic voting was possible across the country. He stressed that his administration had placed the credibility and integrity of the electoral process above the discredited practice of previous governments’ winner-takes-all approach.

He commended the electorate for showing, for the second time, that there was no obstacle to the successful adoption of the electronic voting technology in Nigeria.

The governor recalled that voters in Kaduna first made history on May 12, 2018, when they cast their ballots on electronic voting machines to elect chairmen and councillors for the 23 local government councils in the state.

He also explained that the election had placed Kaduna State as the first in Nigeria to successfully use electronic voting and the first sub-national in Africa to do so.

According to him, it also positioned Nigeria as the second country in Africa, after Namibia to use the technology.

“The local government elections held on September 4, 2021 further validated the Kaduna State Government’s decision to invest in Electronic Voting Machines to promote electoral integrity and transparency.

“Kaduna State is proudly upholding a new chapter in elections in Nigeria by using electronic voting technology, championed by a government that is determined to respect the outcome, win or lose,” he said.

With this, el-Rufai has not only opened a new chapter in Nigerian politics, but also validated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s claim that it has the capacity to transmit election results electronically.

Earlier, while reacting to a statement by the National Assembly that it would require the approval of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to transmit election results electronically, INEC told Nigerians that it does not need any such approval to do that.

The commission had declared that the decision by the National Assembly to surrender its constitutional power to conduct elections to the NCC was absolutely unconstitutional.

It would be recall that during the debate on Section 52(3) of the Electoral Amendment Act Bill (which deals with electronic transmission) in the National Assembly, the lawmakers had asked the electoral umpire to seek the approval of the NCC before going on with e-transmission of results.

A National Commissioner and Chairman, Electoral Operations and Logistics Committee, Prof Okechukwu Ibeanu, said that rather than seek  the NCC’s approval, the electoral body has the constitutional mandate to impose duties on the NCC to achieve the electronic transmission of results.

“That is absolutely unconstitutional. You cannot ask INEC to seek the approval of another agency of government to transmit result electronically when actually INEC  has power to impose duties on NCC to achieve electronic transmission of results.

“I completely agree that in the context of underscoring the independence of the Commission, Section 160 of the Constitution has done everything it needs to do. What is left is for INEC to use the power it has under the constitution to achieve its aim,” Ibeanu said, while quoting relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution.

INEC also opposed the NCC’s claim  that Nigeria lacked enough network coverage to guarantee the electronic transmission of election results in 2023.

Besides, the electoral body revealed that the NCC was aware since 2018 that the commission had the capacity and capability to transmit results electronically.

Dazang described the claims by NCC officials who appeared before the House of Representatives as false.

He said, “In January 2018, INEC approached NCC that it wants a technology- driven commission and both have been working closely to deliver a free, fair and credible elections in our country for the benefit of citizens.

“They are also aware that two network providers, MTN and Airtel, have assisted JAMB to conduct their examinations across Nigeria. So INEC is still wondering why the NCC has suddenly made a U-turn that there is not enough network coverage in every part of Nigeria.”

Dazang noted that INEC had introduced innovations designed to clean up Nigeria’s tainted electoral processes, adding that those innovations worked perfectly during the off-season governorship elections held in Edo and Ondo States, as well as during the states and National Assembly By-elections held across Nigeria.

According to him, the constitution has given INEC powers that cannot be shared with any agency of government, pointing out that the new directive of the Senate on e-transmission is akin to stripping INEC of its powers.

On the fear that INEC’s servers might be prone to hacking, Dazang allayed the fears of the public, saying, “There is no website that is not prone to attack by hackers, even in the most advanced nations, but Nigerians should be rest assured that INEC has what it takes to fight off hackers and the commission is well prepared to safeguard its websites against hackers.”

He urged the lawmakers to be patriotic enough to reverse their earlier decisions to vote against electronic transmission of elections results, adding that they should consider the image of the country in the comity of civilised democratic nations.

Speaking with THEWILL on the conduct of the local governments election in Kaduna through the use of technology, a member of the Campaign for Democracy, Comrade Laolu Ayetan, said el-Rufai has demonstrated love for democracy with his action.

“It is now clear that our legislators are selfish. They are more concerned with winning elections by all means possible. They know that with electronic transmission of results, the usual manipulation between the polling units and the collation centres will no longer be possible.

“All lovers of democracy should commend Governor el- Rufai. He deserves commendation. It is now clear that electronic voting and transmission of results is possible in Nigeria. We cannot but be grateful to him,” he said.

Will the National Assembly members reverse their earlier decisions to vote against electronic transmission of results?  Nigerians desire good elections and this can only be guaranteed via electronic conduct and transmission of results, as it will reduce human interference with election results.