INEC Reverses Self, Says Smart Card Readers will Still be Used

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INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Contrary to the outburst by the Independent National Electoral Commission (lNEC) that Smart Card Reader (SCR) has been manipulated by politicians, the commission yesterday said that it would continue to use and deploy SCR in all elections including the rerun in Kogi West Senatorial district, the Ajaokuta Federal Constituency and Sabuwa State Constituency holding on Saturday, November 30.

National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, had Wednesday said the credibility and sanctity of SCR had been destroyed by politicians.

But, INEC, in statement yesterday by Okoye, said despite these perceived shortcomings of SCR, the cards would still be used in subsequent elections.

The statement said “the clarification has become necessary in the light of remarks attributed to the National Commissioner in-charge of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye Esq., at a programme organised by the Situation Room, which gave the impression that Smartcard Readers are no longer useful in the electoral process.”

“To the contrary, the National Commissioner spoke in the context of attempts by some political interests to willfully by-pass the Smart Card Reader during elections to inflate their votes,” Okoye clarified.

He explained that politicians often do this because of the Supreme Court decision which declared that SCR would not be used exclusively to determine over-voting.

Okoye, however, said the commission introduced SCR in the electoral process principally as additional confirmatory and authentication tool to determine the authenticity of cards presented by voters and eliminate impersonation, which are serious challenges to the electoral process in Nigeria. He added that SCR was therefore designed to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process and eliminate multiple voting.

“In accordance with Section 49 (1 & 2) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and Clause paragraph 10 (a) of INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, a person intending to vote with his voter’s card shall be verified to be the same person on the Register of Voters by use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR).”

“Any Poll Official who violates the provisions of paragraph 10(a) relating to the use of the Smart Card Reader shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to prosecution,” the statement said.

Also, he stated that political parties, candidates in election, poll agents and the electorate are reminded that voter resistance to the use of SCR and obstruction and resistance to the deployment/distribution of electoral materials constitute unlawful truncation of the electoral process and zero votes would be entered for the affected polling unit.

The commission, he said, would continue to work with the National Assembly and all the critical stakeholders to reduce malpractices in the nation’s electoral process, including over-voting

Okoye added that as part of this process, strengthening the legal basis of the use of SCR as well as other amendments that would advance the electoral process would be vigorously pursued.

The commission, he stated, would also continue to work with the security agencies and other stakeholders to prevent individuals and/or groups from undermining the use and application of SCR in elections.