Stakeholders in the Information and Communication Technology ecosystem have expressed concern that Nigeria may not reap the full benefits of democracy unless electronic voting system is properly adopted in the 2019 general elections.
This formed the crux of discourse at 2015 e-Nigeria conference held in Abuja recently. At the well attended event, stakeholders charged present administration to as a matter of urgency facilitate the process of full implementation of e-voting in the 2019 elections to help tackle most of the electoral challenges.
Meanwhile, the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega earlier in his address said Nigeria lacks local content software and hardware system that would drive full implementation of e-voting in the country’s general elections.
The stakeholders, who spoke to Vanguard Hi-Tech said that time was no more on the side of INEC to commence the processes if the country must get it right this time.
The former Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, Prof. Cleopas Angaye said Nigeria is ripe for full electronic voting but stressed the need for government to streamline the legal framework ahead of time.
As a leading ICT nation in the continent, Angaye challenged federal government to further demonstrate leadership to the rest of the continent by giving all the needed support to e-voting so that Africa will learn more from Nigeria’s exemplary democratic norms and practices.
‘‘We are ripe for e-voting but first of all, we have to put in place the legal framework. Ready means we are ready to look at it to make necessary amendments. I am not saying it is possible now, but is time to look at the framework, which is key.
‘‘The theme of this conference is apt as it will enable us address how we can collaborate on what we are doing to bring ideas together. It is very proper. Nigeria is actually leading in ICT innovation in the continent, I expect that it should also show leadership in e-voting come 2019.’’
For the President, Association of Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, ATCON, Engr. Lanre Ajayi, Nigeria was ready for e-voting, despite the infrastructural challenges facing the country.
While commenting on the issue where he outlined the benefits of the introduction Card Reader and Permanent Voters Card in the last general elections, Ajayi said full implementation of e-voting will certainly make the election process more efficient, more believable and more transparent.
‘‘The relevance of technology was demonstrated in the last election and we saw how technology was used to facilitate a transparent process to a large extent.
‘‘Technology will certainly make the election process more efficient, more believable and more transparent. I think we are ready for e-voting for 2019 general elections.’’
The ATCON President, while justifying his stand, argued that over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s geographical map is covered by the 2G internet services and as such should be enough to carry election results and other related data.
His words: ‘‘Today, the geographical area of Nigeria is covered by about 80 per cent of signal coverage for internet services, the 2G coverage, which means a substantial part of this country can have access to internet, it may not be fast internet it is enough to start e-voting.
‘‘We only have 10 per cent of broadband penetration. Since, we have huge coverage of the regular service, which is good enough to send election results, which are usually capable of carrying data inflow traffic, we don’t require high data intensity. This tells you that if we choose to do e-voting, we can do it. We have all that is required if the will is there.’’
The former President of Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN), Dr. Jimson Olufuye said INEC should leveraged the progress made in the 2015 general elections to plan for full implementation of e-voting in the subsequent elections, particularly 2019 elections.
Olufuye, who underscored the importance of e-voting to the Change agenda of President Buhari said, the introduction of full electronic voting system in the future elections will not only alleviate electoral malpractices but brings integrity into the system.
‘‘We do know that little introduction of e-voting through the smart card reader in the last general elections brought some level of integrity to our electoral system. Once we lose integrity in the process, which people use to determine who lead them, then, there is no nation.
‘‘E-voting is very key. We believe this conference will help us to move closer to full blown e-voting and that will be setting the pace for many countries around the world. At this crucial point, we need to prepare for 2019 now.’’
Also speaking on the issue, an IT expert, Mr. Tunde Ezichi, frowned at the lukewarm attitude of politicians towards the adoption of electronic voting system, saying that Nigeria can no longer continue to lag behind in terms of technological advancement if the nation truly wants to move forward.