NOW that the 2015 general elections have gone, save for the few States where the results were declared “inconclusive”, it is appropriate to assess the performance of the electoral regulator and umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which Professor Attahiru Jega heads. The elections were a qualified success. It went with minimal collateral effects of the campaigns. Nigerian democracy has hit a critical threshold. We are now able to change the ruling parties, both at the state and federal levels, with the noble phenomenon of losers congratulating winners, and winners extending their hands of fellowship to losers. INEC played a great role in the success of these elections. The most important being the innovation that made all the difference, the introduction of the biometric technologies inherent in the Smart Card Readers, SCRs, and the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs. In all the places that this technology was deployed successfully, the elections went smoothly and helped to stave off post-electoral violence and rejection of results. The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, was so impressed with this biometric revolution that he promised to recommend it to his native State of Virginia, which still operates with voter’s cards that have no biometric features. However, it is also clear that the SCRs and PVCs were not used in States during the elections. For some yet to be explained reasons, INEC was not able to live up to its pledge to ensure that only results emanating from the use of the SCRs and PVCs would be accepted. The use of the so-called “incident forms”, especially during the presidential and National Assembly elections, led to large-scale rigging. It was a major factor too in the inconclusive outcome of the governorship and State Assembly polls in Abia, Taraba and Imo. If the challenges with SCRs are unchecked, SCRs would be the new face of rigging. INEC should have introduced the technology early enough and tested it with smaller state elections before the national polls. Another issue INEC has to correct is the distribution of PVCs which was done in a manner that disfranchised millions of voters. It should still distribute the remaining PVCs to their owners. It also needs to investigate the failure of SCRs in many places. These shortcomings created distortions that affected the conduct of the elections in many places. SCRs and PVCs are the future of our elections. INEC should invest in understanding them. If the challenges the technology presented are tackled, electoral violence would be greatly reduced. Nigerians look forward to when the benefits of the SCRs and PVCs would include being able to vote from any part of the country.

source : vanguardngr

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