Opinion: Let’s discuss the PVC and the Card Readers

by Adetayo Adegbemle

inec-card-readerNeedless to say that the introduction of the Card Readers by INEC is a novel idea and that it would go a long way to make the election rigging free, it is also important to critically analyze issues surrounding the use of the technology, especially taking into consideration the Nigerian environment and its factors.

One of the major talking points that has generated heated discussions and arguments surrounding the Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections has been the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) to conduct the elections, and one which has resulted in the shifting of the polls by 6 weeks from February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015.

While INEC has declared their readiness for February 14th date, Different sides have also presented their arguments, depending on which side of the divide they belong. It was first the National Security Adviser(NSA) that maintained that the elections could not go on because of security concerns, The All Progressives Congress (APC) insinuated that the Federal Government headed by the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) orchestrated the shift because the PDD  was afraid of losing the elections. This is well understood because the shift took the sail off their campaign momentum.

Needless to say that the introduction of the Card Readers by INEC is a novel idea and that it would go a long way to make the election rigging free, it is also important to critically analyze issues surrounding the use of the technology, especially taking into consideration the Nigerian environment and its factors.
This is not the forum to discuss the technology behind Card Readers, and how it works, but this is to raise the question of “If” it would work.

If the general elections go ahead with the use of the Card Readers, the 2015 Elections would be the pilot run for such in Nigeria. As a technologist, who has grown through the ranks, and have experienced working in fields ranging from support to system design, to system integration, it is my believe that we should have used either or both the 2014 Ekiti State or Osun State elections as test drive.

Failure of the Card Reader technology on the election date would be a disaster, and an anti-climax, with a long ripple effect on subsequent elections, not minding the cost incurred already.

INEC swore on their life that they were ready, but 5 weeks the February 14th date, are still battling with the distribution of the Permanent Voters Card. I was surprised when INEC declared the 7th of March, 2015 as a mock test date for the PVCs and Card Readers, with varying degrees of successes, if we could call it that.

What I expect from Nigerians, especially those in the opposition, and who have decided to politicize the Card Reader issue, is to critically sit down to understand issues surrounding deployment of technologies, and advice on adoption of international best practices, which is to have subjected the technology to rigorous tests drives, using different scenarios that could bring failure, and base their argument on this.

On the Permanent Voters Card, this should have an all year round exercise that should only be suspended few weeks to the elections. We have had issues with people who registered in pre-2011 elections but could not locate their PVCs simply because their data could not be located or was affected by virus, as they claimed.

I have advocated on several platforms the establishment of National Civic Centers in ALL Local Governments where the National database will be domiciled and things like Civic registrations (Voters Card, Birth Registration Certificates, Death Registrations/Certificates), National ID Cards, Drivers Licensing and the likes) will be issues. The National Civic Center would have eliminated most of the issues we face today.

We need to be forward thinking, stop all these kneejack reactions, and stop politicizing all issues to the detriment of Nigerians. Nigerians are the losers in the end.

As a professional, I strongly recommend that INEC jettison the introduction of the card reader for these elections. They had 4years to prepare for this, prepare user manuals, distribute same to the public, and carry out Voters education.  Why is INEC stampeding Nigeria into making a mistake that will carry more grievous consequences?

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Adetayo Adegbemle is a public opinion commentator/analyst, researcher, and the convener of PowerUpNigeria. He tweets from @gbemle, @PowerUpNg

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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