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Nigeria Electoral Commission Targets Vote Rigging

Nigeria's electoral chief and academic Attahiru Jega attends a meeting with staff from the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja, March 17, 2011. (AP Image)

A senior official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refuted reports that the use of card readers to authenticate voters is unconstitutional.

Both the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act of 2010 stipulate that “electronic voting is prohibited for now.” Critics say those laws are also meant to cover the use of electronic readers to check voter registration cards.

But Nick Dazang, INEC’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs said critics are misunderstanding the measures.

“The card reader we are deploying for the elections is meant only for accrediting voters before they vote,” said Dazang. “Electronic voting means using a machine to vote. And in the instance of the card reader, the only thing it does is to accredit and authenticate the voter and then verify the voter as the genuine voter of the Permanent Voter Card [PVC] that we are using for the election.”

His comments came after INEC chairman Professor Attahiru Jega appeared before the Senate to answer questions surrounding the electoral body’s readiness to administer the March 28 election.

Jega cited several sections of the constitution and the electoral act to support the INEC’s decision to use the card reader, which he said is legal, according to Dazang.

But the critics say strict interpretation of the law should forbid INEC from using the card reader. They insist it would undermine the credibility of the vote.

Dazang disagreed.

“The criticisms are unfounded and they are not justified,” said Dazang. “If anything, what the card reader seeks to do is to enhance the credibility and the integrity of the process. In time past the voter register was not only padded, people rigged elections at the point of voting.”

“What the card reader seeks to do is to stop people from rigging and to ensure that only the genuine and valid owners of the Permanent Voter Cards that we issued out based on the register that we generated from the 2011 voter registration exercise and subsequent registration exercises last year are allowed to vote,” he added.

Dazang said officials of the commission have been trained to competently use the card reader during the election.

He said INEC plans to deploy university and tertiary students as part of its adhoc staff in polling stations across the country.

“This week our national commissioners have gone back to the states to ensure that we take advantage of the rescheduling and extension of the elections to further give elaborate and robust training for the adhoc staff so that we do not face any embarrassment on the day of election,” he said.

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