THE CARD READER AND ELECTORAL CREDIBILITY IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS

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THE CARD READER AND ELECTORAL CREDIBILITY IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS

ABSTRACT

 The real issue in the 2019 general elections in Nigeria was the use of the smart card reader. The smart card reader was a critical component in the elections. It was used for the first time used in 2015 in the electoral process of Nigeria and it remains one of the greatest technological innovations of the 2015 and 2019 general elections respectively. The smart card reader is a technological device setup to authenticate and verify on Election Day a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) issued by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The fundamental basis for the deployment of the technologically-based device by INEC was to ensure a credible, transparent, free and fair election in order to deepen Nigeria’s democracy. However, the use of the card reader generated electoral conduct among the election stakeholders before, during and after the 2019 general elections. One of such was the legality for the use of the device. This paper therefore  the card reader and electoral credibilty in the 2019 general elections. The paper also looks at the challenges and impact of the card reader on the election. The paper argued that considering the massive electoral fraud witnessed in general elections since Nigeria’s independence, the card reader should be used for future elections. Consequently, subsequent general elections in Nigeria should gradually continue to be technologically driven.

CHAPTER ONE

 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the 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, 2015 and 2019 General elections are elections conducted in the federation at large for federal and state elective positions (The Electoral Institute, 2019).

The 2019 presidential election appears to be the most keenly contested in the history of elections in Nigeria because it was the second time the ruling part, 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), the election became the only game in town, shaping and reshaping public discourse and political actions.

The use of electronic card readers at the 2019 general election in Nigeria has infused some level of transparency and credibility into Nigeria’s electoral process (Okonji, 2019). It was observed that when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its plan to used electronic card reader machine for the February and March 2019 general elections, many Nigerians, especially politicians, vehemently opposed to it. They felt the country has not developed to a level where such technology can be employed for elections and what happened during 2015 elections should not itself again. Besides, they felt the uses of electronic card reader would disrupt the entire electoral processes.

The public outcry that greeted the planned to adopt electronic card reader machines again was enough to discourage INEC from using it. However, because of   INEC confidence in the efficacy of modern technologies in achieving quick results, coupled with its vision to transform the country’s electoral process from its old norms that was characterized by ballot box snatching and multiplicity of ballot tomb-printing, INEC went ahead and used the technology against all odds (Vanguard, 2019). However, many technology experts in Nigeria and outside, who monitored the elections are full of praises for INEC for insisting on the use of electronic card reader machines, saying it is the best thing that has ever happened to the Nigerian electoral process in the area of election transparency. They have called on the electoral umpire to introduce electronic card reader machines in subsequent elections, believing it is a sure way to achieve transparency and credibility in every election.

Prior to the 2019 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 Yakub Mahmood) 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 CARD READER AND ELECTORAL CREDIBILITY IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS

THE CARD READER AND ELECTORAL CREDIBILITY IN THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS