Professor Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has faulted the exclusion of electronic transfer of election results in the ongoing review of the Electoral Amendment Act (2010) by the National Assembly. He spoke during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, sayimg the decision of the ninth National Assembly to allow INEC to use electronic voting without electronic transmission of results is counterproductive.
“You can’t permit INEC on one hand to use electronic voting and not use electronic transmission of results on the other because usually they go as a package,” he said. “Once there is a robust software and hardware for doing so, it now brings efficiency, transparency and real time ability to see the results as they are transmitted from the polling unit to a national collation centre.”
When asked if politicians feel uncomfortable with electronic transmission of results, Jega replied in the affirmative. However, he explained that “Not all politicians are fraudulent and want to win by hook or by crook.” Jega asked the National Assembly to “diligently work” to ensure that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill (2021) is “appropriately amended” before passage.
On whether Nigeria is ready for a fully digitised electoral system, Jega said, “I will urge that we make haste slowly. There is no doubt that if electronic voting is done appropriately, it will go a long way in improving the integrity of our elections. “There are so many challenges in our country. For one to be able to do effective, thorough electronic voting, you need the infrastructure, software and associated support infrastructure. For example, it will require stability of electricity, extensive network coverage and robust internet facilities.”
Jega is right. As a former electoral umpire who conducted 5 national elections between 1999 and 2015, some very successfully and others not quite so, he must know the onion very well. In the first place, it contradictory to accept one face of coin and reject the other. As Jega said, electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results must “come as a package” or nothing at all.
What more, Jega made the lawmakers’ job easier by pointing out the “many challenges” that will make electronic voting and result transmission nearly impossible for now. According to him, these obstacles include poor power supply and distribution as well limited Internet reach. Until they are sorted out, we shouldn’t be talking about electronic voting even.
If the lawmakers knew that, why did they recommend it but not electronic transmission of election results? Jega provided an answer: politicians are simply afraid of losing an election. Electronic result transmission eliminates result tampering by politicians who want to win, in Jega’s words, “by hook or by crook”.
This said, the nation cannot wait interminably for the right time to adopt electronic voting and result transmission. There is nothing that says INEC must apply it nationwide at the same time. Let it start on a pilot basis, using governorship elections that are coming up before the national poll of 2023. The gains and lessons of those elections will point the way to go in 2023.