Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Reps block INEC from using manual accreditation during elections

The House of Representatives have allowed the use of smart card readers by INEC, effectively restricting the use of manual means to oversee electoral activities.

• July 19, 2021
House of Representatives, [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Reps NGR]
House of Representatives, [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Reps NGR]

The House of Representatives have allowed the use of smart card readers by INEC, effectively restricting the use of manual means to oversee electoral activities. 

The restriction was placed on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2020 passed on Friday.  Legislators had proposed a number of amendments to the document during its session between Thursday and Friday. 

The Committee on Electoral Matters presented the proposed amendments before the house. Among the clauses for amendment is Section 49(3), which says that, “Where a smart card reader or any other technological device deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a fresh card reader or technological device is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours.

“If the commission is satisfied that the result of the election in that polling unit will substantially affect the final result of the whole election and declaration of a winner in the constituency concerned.”

The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had suggested that the House remove “or any other technological device” from the clause.

“The question then remains, what do you mean by ‘any other technological device?’ Do we want to make sure that our Act is watertight and devoid of any kind of manipulation? That word (phrase) is too ambiguous. It could mean anything; it could mean your phone – your smartphone, it could mean a pen or any device,” Mr Gbajabiamila said. 

The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the Committee of the Whole countered Mr Gbajabiamila, saying “Other technological devices could come in other forms. Smartphones may not be the only form. Your computer is not a smart phone. So, you could apply a computer, that is why the word ‘any other technological device.’”

Mr Wase argued that the provision would allow further provisions that would allow the law to recognise future technological advancements; he noted that computers, also devices, are used during polls.

The amendment proposed by Mr Gbajabiamila was put to a voice vote by Mr Wase and it was adopted by the House.

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