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Stopping vote buying or rigging election: INEC’s ban on smart phones at polls sparks controversy

THE recent directive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that smartphones and cameras will not be allowed in polling booths during the Osun governorship election and in subsequent elections has generated wide-ranging controversy.

Even when the INEC National Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, clarified that the ban on smartphones and cameras will only apply once a voter has collected the ballot paper to proceed to the polling booth to thumbprint and cast his or her ballot, not many people were persuaded that the idea was a good one.

Yakubu had explained that the ban was one of the steps taken by INEC to curb the menace of vote buying and selling. He said that some voters would use their smartphones or cameras to take pictures of their already thumb-printed ballot papers in order to show it as proof that they had voted a particular political party, and then receive monetary gratifications from the party.

A ban on smartphones and digital cameras, Yakubu opined, will go a long way in checking vote buying and selling, which he described as a “cancer” in the Nigerian electoral system.

However, while many Nigerians have applauded the move, others say it is INEC’s way of rigging the election by ensuring that the manipulation of the process will not be captured on camera. Political parties also are divided on the issue with some saying it is a welcome development and others describing it as a move to rig elections.

Former National Chairman of Labour Party, Dan Nwanyanwu, commended INEC for coming up with the directive. Nwanyanwu, who is now the National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party, gave the commendation during Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’.

Nwanyanwu even added that security personnel should search voters to ensure they have no hidden cameras on them with which they could take snapshots of the party they vote for with the intention of getting financial payments.

Also, Olugbenga Akintola, the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in the Osun governorship election, said the ban on smartphones was a good one because it gives the so-called underdog candidates like himself, a better fighting chance at the polls.

On Twitter, there were many arguments in support of the ban. “This is actually a good idea,” tweeted Emeka Anene. “I am wondering how this will be implemented. Will INEC position somebody close to the booths to ensure nobody goes in with their phones? Or is there going to be a drop basket for phones once ballot is issued? What happens to defaulters?”

“If you think this isn’t a good idea, ask the people of Ekiti state. Once they snap the ballot paper, they will use the picture to collect 5k for the vote n delete it immediately. Nice one,” tweeted Adebukola.

However, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, condemned the ban, saying it was a dictatorial move aimed at preventing the global community from knowing the process of the elections.

Similarly, popular social media user, Segun Awosanya, criticised the ban on smartphones at polling booths, saying it is inconveniencing to the voter. He tasked the INEC to come up with more pro-active measures to prevent political party agents from bringing cash to polling areas.

“The core of the issue is addressing the criminal syndicate that brings money to the polling unit. Report them and get them prosecuted via evidence gathering. Not inconveniencing the voters,” Awosanya tweeted on Wednesday.

“Asking people to drop their phones will increase the waiting process on the queue as well as other issues that will be confirmed from the executing of this directive. We are simply glossing over the main issue here.”

Also, former Governor of Cross River State and presidential aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Donald Duke, did not agree with the ban. He tweeted: “INEC bans phones and cameras at polling stations. QED, let the rigging begin!”

Doyin Okupe, a former presidential spokesman, also condemned the directive. He said: “INEC has no powers to make laws in Nigeria especially such that concerns fundamental rights of citizens. This is not yet a Banana Republic. The ban cannot stand.”

Another Twitter user wrote: “Don’t be deceived. Voting happens in polling booths, not the units. If INEC can keep everyone blind in the polling booths then they can Rig the Election. Vote buyers are the problem not the electorates.”

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