By Nnamdi Odumody
The recently postponed Presidential and National Assembly elections in Nigeria cost the electoral umpire INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) headed by Professor Mahmood Yakubu a loss of N6.23 billion. The total cost of polling agents for a day election is about N42.7 billion which has also been lost while the impact on GDP is estimated at N191 billion bringing the total cost on the economy to N239.93 billion based on the current exchange rate of N360 to a dollar.
The general elections have been postponed: February 23 for presidential and National Assembly elections and March 9 for governorship and state assembly elections. Once again, Nigeria has shown our level of incompetence but I give INEC credit for simply saying that it was not ready instead of blaming one clandestine intelligence report.
In a global village anchored on technology as its pillar, it is still surprising that we are yet to adopt technology-driven elections. In 2017, the Electronics Development Institute, an arm of the National Agency For Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), developed a solar powered electronic voting machine with a cloud based election result collation system which incorporates facial recognition, Radio Frequency Identification Device Options of voters identification in addition to thumb print and card reader.
The device has provision for real time election result as voting progresses and diaspora voting to include the over 30 million Nigerians outside the shores of the nation who wish to participate in determining the kind of government they deserve. Also, the device eliminates the common problems we always face with our elections: ballot box snatching, multiple thumb printing which renders the vote cast as invalid, failure of card reader and alteration of data between polling units and collation centers.
When this innovation was presented to the current INEC Chairman by the Hon Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the INEC stated that Nigeria wasn’t ready for such. In a nation where over 80 million citizens use mobile communication for their day to day activities, and over 30 million account holders in banks are associated with Bank Verification Numbers for efficiency in the financial system, INEC may not be overly right in its assessment.
If INEC is really ready to conduct a free, fair and credible election better than what the then Federal Electoral Commission under Prof Humphrey Nwosu organized on June 12 1993 that was won by late billionaire Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, then it should create a system where everyone can vote irrespective of location once a Nigerian citizen with mobile phone number and National Passport ID, BVN Number, National ID number or Permanent Voter ID number for verification.
It will be programmed to accept only one vote and powered by blockchain technology so that political parties will not have access to steal voters’ information for fraudulent purposes. This way everyone votes and economic activities are not disrupted while the results are transmitted as they are collated in real time and the winner is announced.
INEC needs to adopt technology to conduct elections which will be credible, non-expensive and strenuous on the election personnel and voters in line with global best practices.