In what has become needlessly controversial, the introduction of the Card Reader technology by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has been insinuated into the usual Nigerian malaise of doubt and distrust. Making the wrong arguments – and worse still, suggesting that they do not want the device to be used for the forthcoming general elections – members and leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are expressing fears about the use to which the devices would be put.
Conversely, the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC, appears confident in the belief that only the Card Reader can deliver free, fair and credible elections. Yet, Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman, must accept responsibility and blame for the shambling and shambolic air that is presently generating the hoopla. This report will show that Jega’s position that INEC was ready to go ahead and conduct elections on February 14, 2015, when virtually all indices pointed in the negative direction, as well as the wrong-headed insistence by leaders of the APC that the elections should go ahead, makes an attenuating case for the accommodation of the fears of the PDP.
Carrying out a test-run only yesterday, some three clear weeks after the fraud that would have been passed off as elections in February, this report will conclude that Jega and his Commission would need to come clean and not waste time, resources and goodwill that Nigerians have dissipated in the belief that free, fair and credible elections are about to be conducted.
N5million! And the promise of a fabulous job once the votes are delivered and the election has been won. Those are the promises made to the Presiding Officer and the Electoral Officer for Janduku/Barawo/Onyeshi LGA. All they are required to do is to allow the use of stolen Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, in the possession of an influential politician. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman, has made the proposition possible.
How? He has created a window for crooked politicians and dishonest INEC officials that would be on duty on the day of election. In a polity of clashing socio-political, economic and religious interests that Nigeria has become, every contest for power is seen from the prism of either a North/South divide or a Christian/Muslim interest.
Now, by Jega’s choice, cold water has been poured on his pursuit to deliver free, fair and credible elections to Nigerians. His introduction of the Smart Card Reader represented a watershed in the nation’s quest to transit from the sphere of crooked elections to the refreshing environment of a free, fair and credible process. The acknowledged, single most important security feature of the Card Reader is the biometrics, the thumb-print, which is very unique to every individual. This ensures that even in the event that PVC is presented to an INEC official on voting day and the biometrics of the individual does not match the one on the PVC, it suggests that something is amiss.
THE DEVIL IN THE SCHEME
But Jega’s window, which circumvents this security feature, is that an INCIDENT FORM would be provided by the INEC official to be filled by the individual concerned after which he can then be certified to vote. Having promised Nigerians that the biometrics is a security feature that cannot be broken since it is unique to every individual, analysts, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard at the weekend, feared that, allowing a situation whereby the selfsame INEC has put in place a window to sabotage the process amounts to a gratuitous waste of tax payers’ money and time.
The scenario painted above – of the INEC officials who have been given money and promised better jobs if they deliver – is what may predominate on the day of election as this report would demonstrate.
This could be so because most of those who have either stolen or have been given PVCs in their thousands only need a few crooked INEC staff with Card Readers and INCIDENT FORMS aplenty.
And since the onus of proof is on the loser to determine that the victor that emerged at an election did not emerge freely and fairly, it would become a Herculean task to prove that an election is not free, fair and credible – Nigeria’s electoral laws are skewed against the loser who carries the burden of discharging the extent of fraud that was allegedly committed at an election.
THE BURDEN FOR JEGA AND INEC
Firstly, and as proved by the inexplicable and magical near-100% distribution and collection in most states of the North, there are credible reports that, in some parts of the country, particularly in the North, the Card Readers will not be used as electoral rules are usually not complied with, a case of one country, different rules.
Seven different sources at INEC, comprising National Commissioners, Resident Electoral Commissioners and Directors, provided pieces of information to Sunday Vanguard that suggest that the on-going distribution of PVC remains a clear evidence in that, whereas INEC planned and announced that Distribution Register (DR) of collection must be used, this was disregarded in some parts of the North as some states’ INEC offices claimed that the DRs were not available and thus distributed without Register – in some instances.
And so, there was no auditing DRs of collection of PVC as most of the PVCs in the North were allegedly delivered to prominent politicians, district heads and clerics.
In fact, one of the National Commissioners disclosed that “we were shocked when we learnt that, in a particular instance, the governor of a state under Boko Haram insurgency was in custody of the PVCs”.
Insiders disclosed that the high prevalence of distribution and collection in the North is not unconnected to these developments.
That is not all.
INEC distribution strategy was three days at polling units, and, subsequently, at wards or LGAs. One of the questions being asked is: How could it be explained that, in states ravaged by the activities of Boko Haram and under emergency where many people, in their thousands, have moved away, people who queued and collected PVCs were over 70%,80% and in some states 97% since last year – above states where there is peace ?
Isn’t it curious that Lagos, Ogun and several states in the South trailed behind in the rate of collection of PVCs despite abundant manpower compared to the North?
Meanwhile, Jega made light of this when he briefed members of the Senate, saying of what concern should it be to him if some people decided to collect their PVCs while others refused to or did not collect theirs?
The fact that the huge number of PVCs has not actually been distributed to the rightful owners in most parts of the North, and even if they are given the next five months, they will not be able to do so, is the reason the effective use of the Card Readers in the North remains suspect. Part of the problems these developments would create is that even if the PVCs are given to the owners, many would not be in their right polling units because the cards are coded to polling units just as Card Readers are expected to be configured to same.
Contrary to INEC’s claim that the Card Readers are fail safe, experts informed Sunday Vanguard that the facilities can be pre-programmed to reject PVCs.
In addition, the Card Readers can also be pre-loaded even without using the right PVCs.
These are not reasons the Card Readers, analysts suggested, should not be used.
The analysts stressed that public service information should be provided so that INEC and security agencies can brace themselves for the eventuality which politicians and some crooked INEC staff could cause to happen.
HOW JEGA SET THE TONE FOR DOUBT
The INEC boss comes across as a man who means well. But as has been established, there is a world of difference between meaning – well and doing well.
When he was appointed, Nigerians hailed his appointment. He set out to change the narrative about Nigeria’s election management body. One of the very first things he did was to attempt to clean the Voter Register. That was a bold move and Sunday Vanguard was in the forefront of reporting the positive and progressive happenings at INEC.
But the story changed when, while investigating INEC, it was discovered that the clean-up of the Voter Register had deprived the North of millions of ghost voters. There were lots of ghost voters in the South, too, but the North lost much more.
Jega was alleged to have been brought under considerable pressure. Whether he buckled or refused to buckle remains in the realm of conjecture as Sunday Vanguard has not been able to concretely prove that.
But what was to follow was a bogus creation of 30,000 polling units. Only one zone in the North, the North-West, got 7,906 PUs; and when you add the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja’s 1,167, you get a total of 9,073; whereas the entire Southern Nigeria got just about 8,414.
Of the 12 states that got over 1,000 PUs, only Lagos is from the South.
At the rate of 500 voters to each PU, an allocation of extra over 1,000 to those 11 states in the North is a guarantee for no fewer than over 5,500,000 voters more than the entire Southern Nigeria – mind you, the North West and the FCT surpass the whole of Southern Nigeria in the Jega-inspired magic. By the time you add the allocation to North-East and North-Central zones, daylight would enter the crookedness of the whole engagement because, when you allocate PUs to areas with supposedly less population and you allocate materials, you are merely conferring undue advantage.
Worse still, when the INEC boss told Nigerians that the Commission was ready to conduct elections on February 14, 2015, those already blinded by hate, frustration and a lack of understanding of the real issues bought the half-truth that security consideration alone forced INEC to postpone the polls.
Sunday Vanguard immediately published that INEC was not ready the day after Jega announced the postponement, for the following reasons:
That only over 45million PVCs had been collected as at that time
That training manuals were not completely ready
Presiding Officers were yet to be trained
700,000 ad hoc staff had not been fully recruited
PVCs still being printed abroad
RECs yet to print Voter Register
Printers for Register, in some cases, were still in Abuja
*No full complement of ballot boxes
Fake printing inks sent to states from headquarters rejected
Many states yet to get balance of Card Readers.
Neither Jega nor INEC refuted that story which was published on Sunday, February 8, 2015.
Between Saturday, February 7, when INEC announced its postponement, and today, Sunday, March 8, 2015, when you interface the type of progress INEC has recorded, with the boastful Jega on INEC’s readiness to go ahead with the elections, would you not agree that all those insisting that elections should go ahead then wanted nothing other than disorder in the polity? Which manner of election would have been held under such circumstances?
WHAT MUST BE DONE
Analysts believe INEC should publicly recommit to nationwide use of Card Readers in all 120, 000 polling units, PUs – and the additional voting points that it has created – without exception.
“This is because the creation of the fresh voting points, which is a back-handed way of re-introducing the failed lopsided 30,000 additional PUs, is yet to be publicly declared so that members of the voting public would know the exactitude of the number of extra voting points that have been allocated to each state of the federation”, one of the analysts said.
Could it be the same lopsided allocation as was the case with the 30,000 PUs?
This question becomes pertinent because the additional voting points were surreptitiously introduced by INEC – the same way the 30,000 PUs were introduced before Sunday Vanguard reported the issue.
In addition, the Nigeria Police and all other security agencies should be mandated to ensure the arrest of anybody in possession of PVCs that do not belong to them before and on the day of election.
The security personnel and even party agents must be at alert so that the newly introduced voting points would be duly accounted for, just as crooked fellows would not hide in a politician’s house, with the collusion of INEC staff, fill INCIDENT FORMS and use Card Readers to accredit unscrupulous politicians already in possession of thousands of PVCs.