An organ of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) responsible for research and training for electoral officers, the Electoral Institute (EI), has urged the commission to sustain the use of smart card readers in future elections.
The Director of the institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh, made the appeal at a forum in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Professor Momoh explained that the meeting was convened to discuss the gains and challenges of the use of smart card readers in the 2015 elections.
“The whole idea of this round-table is to have a conversation around what went wrong with the card readers in the 2015 general election (and) what were the unintended consequences and backlash from the use of the card readers.”
The EI boss described the use of the card readers in the 2015 elections as a game changer.
He stated that the innovation of the technology had helped to reduce instances of over-bloated voters register.
A former INEC National Commissioner, Mr Nuhu Yakubu, also appealed to INEC to sustain the use of the card readers in future elections.
Mr Yakubu was of the belief that the technology had set a new standard for elections in Nigeria.
“The use of the smart cards and the companion card readers had become the minimum standard for the conduct of elections by the commission.
“This must not only be sustained but be improved upon in future elections,” he said.
Other resource persons at the event highlighted some of the challenges experienced with the use of card readers during the last general polls which include rejection of cards, poor battery issues and inability to capture fingerprints among others.
The Electoral Institute says Nigeria needs to improve its electoral service delivery and get the reform process right in order to stabilise its democracy.
The Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh, made the remarks on Thursday during a meeting with stakeholders in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
He said that although series of talks and committees had been formed to establish a panacea to credible elections, the independence of the nation’s electoral body had come into question.
Highlighting the role of the media, Professor Momoh pointed out that the issues of rising poverty, corruption and erosion of public institutions should not easily sway media practitioners.
He said that the media has a huge role to play in solving the many challenges bedevilling the nation’s electoral process.
The guest lecturer, who is a professor of Political Science at the University of Ibadan, Adigun Agbaje, posited that the attitude of politicians was largely to blame for Nigeria’s eroding democratic values.
Other experts at the gathering also cited the experience at the Edo State governorship election as one of the ways politicians erode the foundation of democracy.
They maintained that the culture of impunity during elections must be addressed.
The stakeholders said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s renewed focus on reforming the electoral process should be sustained to the letter.
The Electoral Institute is planning to develop an election violence mitigation tool to aid the prevention of electoral violence across the country, instead of intervening at the points of violence.
The Director General of the Institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh, said that militarization, which is usually government’s response to election violence, is not a solution but rather development of mitigation strategies and standard instruments that will predict risk factors and triggers and nip violence in the bud.
The Acting Executive Director of the Cleen Foundation, Benson Olugbuo, also recommended two to three years early preparation for elections, saying it is a key tool to mitigation against electoral violence.
From Kogi State, to Bayelsa State and then to Rivers, there have been series of election violence that have resulted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring elections in those states inconclusive.
There have also been losses of lives and property resulting from these cases of violence and a constant deployment of the Police and the military to the trouble spots.
Another challenge to stopping electoral violence is the failure to try and sentence perpetrators and instigators of electoral violence in a law court.
This has been blamed for the increasing spate of cases of violence which heightens with every election as there is as yet, no form of deterrence for sponsors and perpetrators.
The Independent National Electoral Commission has urged political parties in Nigeria to educate their election monitoring agents on current electoral practices to ensure credible polls in 2015.
Chairman of the Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, told journalists at a training session for party agents that agents who are informed about electoral process help authenticate the outcome of elections.
Speaking to Channels Television afterwards, Professor Jega said; “For party agents to be able to discharge these responsibilities, they need to be properly and adequately trained and as INEC we believe that our vision will be to train master trainers for political parties so that they can go back and train and have very credible agents who are knowledgeable about the electoral process and who would be able to play a good role for the parties they represent.”
This submission was shared by the Electoral Institute and the Inter-Party Advisory Council who noted that party agents in Nigeria were yet to understand their statutory roles during elections.
The Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Abubakar Momoh, said; “Our little knowledge and the short political history of the country show that some of these party agents do not seem to understand their statutory role and ethical best practices in term of what is expected of them when they go to polling units.
“What we are trying to do in INEC is to go to this 3-day training to equip them and introduce the various technical issues involved with being a party agent at a polling unit.”
The Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yunusa Tanko, added that it was one of the major factors needed towards achieving credible elections.
“The agent has a very serious, important and critical role to play in electioneering. Once he has the right materials and the training, he will give paid to the election that has taken place, thereby knowing exactly what the procedures are,” he said.