The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria’s electoral umpire has disclosed plans to introduce electronic voting system as from 2021.
INEC made the disclosure on Monday when it released a document that will serve as a guideline for conducting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission gave these details in its 17-paged policy document signed by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and made available to journalists in Abuja.
The electoral body said it would work with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to enact appropriate laws that will make this possible.
According to INEC, the plans are part of measures to curb the rising cost of conducting elections in Nigeria.
Similarly, INEC said it was exploring ways to do away with bye-elections in Nigeria adding that the move is based on a Supreme Court judgment which states that votes belong primarily to political parties and not candidates.
It explained that if approved, the new guideline will make it possible for political parties to recommend candidates as replacements instead of the commission to conduct frequent bye-elections.
INEC also said it would “pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time (not Edo and Ondo), but work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.”
It noted that electronic voting would ensure non-contact means of voting and reduce to a minimum, the interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye-elections to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus.
Further details from the document reads, “The commission will engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as the Commission’s records, which show that only in 10 per cent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.
“The commission will engage relevant authorities, including the legislature, to designate election as an essential service to enable the commission function effectively in times of national emergency.
“The commission shall revamp its election planning and implementation-monitoring processes in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the commission in planning elections shall respond to the growing demand for deepening the use of technology in the electoral processes, including the introduction of electronic voting.”
INEC said it would engage political parties, voters and all other stakeholders and constantly re-evaluate its plans in the light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The commission will ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff by deploying its INECPres portal, as well as in notifying ad hoc staff of invitations and postings (for example, use of SMS) to prevent large gatherings at INEC offices during staff deployment.
“The Electoral Operations and Logistics Department will harvest all past ad hoc staff from its databases and send to each State preparing for elections.
“All ad hoc staff databases in the commission will be harmonised for better management. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the commission shall reduce, to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye-elections.
“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the States are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state.
“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission shall encourage political parties to develop appropriate guidelines and regulations for conduct of party primaries that take into account the COVID-19 prevention protocols.”