Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has scored an own goal and perhaps vindicated those who initially called for the suspension of the use of the smart card readers.
Prior to the presidential and National Assembly elections, many especially some political parties the most prominent of which was the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP called for the review of the use of the card readers saying that it would have been best if it was tested in smaller provincial elections. While the ruling PDP was kicking, the opposition, All Progressives Congress, APC was hailing INEC and described the introduction of the card readers as an innovation that would ensure free, fair and credible election.
While the ding-dong affair lasted, Professor Jega was enjoying the euphoria and ululation that came with the fact that he was introducing a device that would ostensibly take care of election manipulation in the country. While still enjoying the limelight, Professor Jega was quoted as saying that people were after him over the card reader because he had stood his ground in ensuring that the election would be fair.
“We can see the dust that the introduction of card readers raised. So we decided to keep piloting and improving on the system beyond 2015, hopefully, by 2019 the commission will introduce it for the general elections. They know card readers will stop alteration of figures. This is indeed why they have been attacking me because they know that the card reader machines will help us to address all those irregularities, starting from the accreditation of voters at all the polling units. How can they manipulate the election when all the information with regards to the number of voters that turned out at every polling unit is automatically captured and transmitted by the card reader machines?
“We have made rigging impossible for them. We have made rigging impossible for them, as there is no how the total number of votes cast at the polling unit could exceed the number of accredited persons. Such discrepancy in figures will be immediately spotted. This technology will further make it impossible for any corrupt electoral officer to connive with any politician to pad-up results.”
Those who kicked against the introduction of the novel device argued that being a new technological device to Nigeria’s electoral system, it should have been tested with less complicated provincial elections instead of an election as important and crucial as the presidential election. To those in this school of thought, if the device malfunctioned, it would be disastrous.
However, there were louder voices who insisted that if the elections were to be free and fair, card reader is the only answer. The opposition, APC was more vocal in this regard and taunted the ruling PDP, accusing it of being afraid of imminent loss at the polls and according to APC that explained PDP’s morbid fear for the card reader.
With the unresolved controversy that trailed the card readers, Professor Jega and INEC decided to go ahead to deploy the smart card readers for the presidential and national assembly elections. As feared by those who kicked against their deployment, the smart card readers became the commission’s Achilles heel on Election Day.
From Benue to Ondo, from Kaduna to Lagos, it is the same story of failure of the card readers. Even Professor Jega and his INEC who were hitherto grandstanding about the success of the device were to be put to shame as the commission quickly amended its Electoral Guidelines to allow manual verification of voters and extended the election by one day.
According to INEC’s director in charge of Information and Voter Education, Dr. Chris Iyimoga, “The commission has been monitoring field reports on the accreditation process since the commencement of the poll this morning. Whereas the process has gone on well in several places, in some others it has encountered some challenges, especially with the use of the card readers.
“Consequently, accreditation has been slow in many places and has not commenced at all in some others.
Even the APC that was at the forefront of the deployment of card readers had called for the extension of voting to allow more voters b accredited.
On the other hand, PDP seems to be having the last laugh and says it has been vindicated by the failure and malfunctioning of the card readers.

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