EFFECT OF BIOMETRIC AUTHENTICATION OF VOTERS ON ELECTORAL PROCESS A STUDY OF LAGOS HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTION

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EFFECT OF BIOMETRIC AUTHENTICATION OF VOTERS ON ELECTORAL PROCESS A STUDY OF LAGOS HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTION

ABSTRACT

Elections in Nigeria had often filled the air with apprehension and a high sense of trepidation. Stakes in elections are high. Under the zero-sum game which is in operation, winners take all and losers have nothing unlike the situation under proportional representation. In Nigeria, there are limited avenues by which individuals can benefit from states resources. By winning elections and getting recruited into the state sphere, an individual is assured of better life chances, so are close family members and ethno-religious constituencies. Elections are thus a matter of life and death. Electoral mal-practices are common. In 2011 but in the 2015 elections in particular, there was a marked shift in the electoral process. Those who had been used to thwarting the electoral process were checkmated by the use of election technology, more specifically, the introduction of electronic biometric authenticators. The introduction of election technology paved the way for a more credible and competitive elections in Nigeria.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to study

Election is the process of choosing a candidate for public office. Election is a critical component of any democratic society. As such, Nigeria‟s returned to democratic rule and engagement with the democratic process led to the conduct of its general elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. General elections are elections conducted in the federation at large for federal and state elective positions (The Electoral Institute, 2015).

The 2015 general election appears to be the most keenly contested in the history of elections in Nigeria because it was the first time about four major opposition parties came together to form a very strong party, All Progressive Congress (APC) in order to challenge the dominance of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the polity. Indeed, according to Omotola (2013: 172), the election became the only game in town, shaping and reshaping public discourse and political actions.

Prior to the 2015 general elections, a number of technologically based reforms (e.g. biometric Register of Voters, Advanced Fingerprints Identification System) were embarked upon by the new leadership (headed by Prof Attairu Jega) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the election management body empowered by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to organize, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria.

The more general use of biometric in African elections is on the rise. No fewer than 25 sub-Saharan African countries (e.g. Sierra-Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, Mali, Togo, Ghana etc.) have already held elections employing a biometric voter register (Piccolino, 2015). The Automated Fingerprint Identification System was used in the 2011 general elections as a digital register to eliminate doubles from the list, and was not capable or verifying the identity of voters at the polling stations (Piccolino, 2015).

These technologically based reforms by INEC were further taken to another height in the 2015 general elections with the use of the Permanent Voter‟s Card (PVC) and introduction of Smart Card Reader technology, a device used to scan the PVC in order to verify the identity of a voter in a polling booth. The smart card reader was one of the greatest innovations of biometric verification technology and controversial crucial aspect of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Somaliland etc had adopted the biometric verification technology.

Concerned about the massive electoral fraud witnessed in the past general elections in Nigeria, INEC deployment of the card reader in 2015 general elections was to ensure a credible, transparent, free and fair election in order to deepen Nigeria‟s electoral democracy. However, the used of the electronic device in the 2015 general elections generated debate among election stakeholders before, during and after the elections.

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EFFECT OF BIOMETRIC AUTHENTICATION OF VOTERS ON ELECTORAL PROCESS A STUDY OF LAGOS HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTION