Simple Call: Law, Technology and Elections in Nigeria.
The forthcoming 2019 General Election in Nigeria has not only shown us how intense elections can be but it has also accentuated how critical and significant elections are to our future individually and collectively. Particularly, free and fair elections.
Overtime, global economic history and trends have revealed that although not at all times, but most times there is an inextricable link between free and fair elections and good governance. Good governance being characterized by reduction in poverty, reduction in youth unemployment, working health system, security…
To aid free and fair elections, it is of utmost importance that the Government formulates and implements good policies (laws) and leverage technology. From the introduction of the Optical Magnetic Recognition (OMR) forms to Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM), Electronic Voters’ Register (EVR), Smart Card Reader (SCR) and e-collation, and the policies that allow for their usage, so much has changed since 1998 when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was established as the electoral body to oversee all electoral processes in Nigeria.
The effects of leveraging technology and supporting policies in elections include the transparency of electoral processes, reduction in electoral malpractices, reduction in time spent, safekeeping of election data (results and statistics), validation of the electoral body (INEC) as reliable and credible and stronger belief and participation in the electoral processes on the Citizens’ part.
Like every other Act in Nigeria, the Constitution has vested in the National Assembly the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation, as well as the President who must sign a Bill before it becomes law. The Electoral Act which regulates electoral processes in Nigeria undergoes the same legislative process. Prior to the 2015 general election, section 52 sub-section 2 of the Electoral Act 2010 prohibited INEC from using any electronic means of voting, but the section was amended in the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2015 which was signed into law by the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on March 20, 2015.
In 2017, the Senate passed the Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 which specifically states in its section 49 sub-section 2 that ‘The Presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the commission from time to time for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the genuineness or otherwise of the voter’s card’. However, the Bill is yet to become law as the President is yet to assent to it.
Notwithstanding, Section 9 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2015 states that ‘Section 52 of the Principal Act is amended by substituting for subsection (2), a new subsection ‘‘(2)’’: ‘(2) Voting at an election under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Independent National Electoral Commission’, thereby legitimizing the use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR) by INEC.
It is not sufficient to say that technology alone can help achieve these things without the law playing its part as this is a well-defined scenario of the result of a working synergy between law and Technology. The law enables and ensures the enforcement of the technologies. Therefore, if the Nation must move forward, there is a need for the policymakers to always give considerable room to such deliberations. Truly, the synergy between Law and Technology are essential to our overall growth.