The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently stated that results collated at the polling units would be electronically transmitted during the 2019 general elections. Electronic transmission of results is no doubt commendable considering its potency in authenticating veracity of results as well as relevance in discouraging alteration of results at the polling units as well as collation centres. It would also be relevant in reducing disputes arising from results collated and announced as all the parties and stakeholders would have access to proper means of verification of final vote tallies. Electronic transmission of results will also bequeath the electoral process with efficiency of the electoral process as well as timely announcement of final outcome of election.
It is recalled that Nigeria’s electoral process has suffered huge credibility deficit as a result of untoward Election Day practices such as alteration of result sheets, falsification of poll results, mutual illicit vote allocations by parties or candidates, duplication of result sheets to create confusion as well as ballot box snatching to perpetrate falsification of result. The absence of means of proper authentication of poll outcome has provided incentive for these malpractices which most often degenerate to post-election violence and thwarting of the popular will and mandate of the people. Untidy electoral process that creates loopholes for manipulation could no longer be an acceptable practice as it undermines popular choice in determining the heath of any democratic system.
It is therefore heart-warming that INEC is finally taking appropriate steps to address the lingering challenges of malpractices associated with manipulation of poll results. Electronic transmission of results will consolidate the gains already recorded with the introduction of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) and Card Readers in the 2015 general elections. The move by INEC to have all results transmitted electronically at the end of vote count will significantly reduce criminal tendencies of desperate politicians who have indulge in electoral malfeasance for too long a period unmindful of the negative consequences on the democratic process. We therefore urge that INEC be given necessary support to clean up the electoral process and further strengthen the democratic process.
Notwithstanding, it is imperative to reiterate the need for INEC to ensure that transmission of election is diligently carried and devoid of controversies. It is noteworthy that INEC has already assured that a separate software has been developed for the purposes of transmitting election results from the polling units. However, arrangement being proposed with the National Communication Commission (NCC) must be thoroughly worked out to enable the relevant Telecommunication company properly deploy their technical capabilities for the seamless execution of electronic transmission of poll results.
If the proposed method of electronic transmission of results becomes successful, there are huge prospects that the overriding effect would have invested a new level of confidence in the Nigeria’s electoral process. We therefore emphasise that beyond INEC, Nigerians irrespective of political persuasions and level of scepticism should see the initiative as another strategic step in the journey towards credible election in Nigeria. Political parties in particular should consider their roles as partners in ensuring the success of electronic transmission of results as some of the concerns relating to Election Day malpractices would have been substantially if not totally eliminated if electronic transmission of results becomes a success in subsequent elections. It is nevertheless expected INEC will do all that is necessary to ensure that the investment in the proposed initiative accomplishes the objectives and purposes.
More importantly, INEC must begin to address, in earnest, likely challenges such as power failure, telecommunication network failure, logistics for accessing nooks and crannies of the country that may crop up across the country in the process of transmitting results electronically. Perhaps INEC should consider test-running the initiative during the conduct of Ekiti and Osun governorship elections coming up later in 2018 as a way of fine-tuning associated logistics towards achieving unimpeded electronic transmission of election results. Whereas challenges are not unexpected with the use of technology in our clime, it is expected that proactive measures would be carefully taken into account and relevant contingency plans put in place to address anticipated hiccups.