Why We Must Use PVCs And Card Readers – Jega

By Adedayo Ogunleye, Abuja

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, has said that the use of Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, and card readers is non-negotiable if the nation is serious about eliminating electoral fraud in the upcoming general elections.

Jega, who stated this at a town hall meeting held on Monday in Abuja, also affirmed that the field tests which were recently conducted in five zones across the country proved the reliability of the card reader technology as a means ensuring free, fair and credible elections.

He said that the commission was able to realise 100 per cent success in three of the set objectives of undertaking the field tests, conceding that the authentication of fingerprints by the card readers recorded only 60 per cent success.

Observing that quality assurance and field tests so far carried out by INEC indicate that the card readers will operate very well during the polls, he said that electoral fraud such as the use of cloned cards would be eliminated.

The INEC chairman said that the use of card readers would help in advancing the electoral process because they would now keep information on all those accredited to vote in particular polling units and thus eliminate fraudulent manipulation of the accreditation process; help in the auditing of voters and also provide statistical analysis, including the demographics of the people who vote at elections.

Jega acknowledged that there were challenges with the authentication voters’ fingerprints during the field tests but said he believed that majority of voters would still be able to authenticate their fingerprints.

He adduced the problem of fingerprint authentication partly to the fact that many Nigerians engage in work which entails the use of their hands which might affect the ability of machines to read their fingers.

Even then, he explained that the card readers would still be able to identify the voter through image and biometrics and that he or she would still be able to vote as long as the matter is logged in an incident form.

He also explained there were contingency plans in place in the event of the malfunctioning of any of the card readers assigned to the polling booths.

“To check for unwarranted failures of machines, we have made available extra card readers for each of the polling stations, so that in the unlikely event that one fails, the electoral officers can fall back on the extra ones,” he stated.

He said further that the batteries of the card readers are so good that the commission does not envisage that the batteries will run out.

Answering a question about alleged non distribution of voters’ cards in entire local governments in Edo, Lagos, Oyo and others, the INEC chairman debunked the allegations, insisting that there is no single local government where PVCs have not been distributed

He explained, however, that there could be some polling units in local governments where voters have not received their PVCs because about 700, 000 PVCs are still yet to be produced for distribution.

He assured that these outstanding PVCs would be produced and distributed well ahead of the election days.

The INEC Chairman also addressed questions on issues like multiple registration, collection of PVCs by proxy, voting by internally displaced persons, IDPs, the role of the military and taking care of persons with disabilities or similar physical conditions, including albinos.

On multiple registrations, Jega said that INEC had weeded out all voters who registered more than once from the register, adding that the commission identified at least 4,000,000such cases, which were dealt with by deleting the extra entries while retaining one so that the culprits are not disenfranchised.

The INEC chairman explained that one reason why the commission insists that temporary voter cards, TVCs, would not be used in the 2015 elections is that all those who registered multiple times have the temporary cards and would all be able to use the extra cards if the system were allowed.

Jega also stated that while collection of PVCs by proxy was strictly prohibited, the commission remained vigilant to catch and penalize erring officers caught flouting the extant regulations on PVC distribution.

He said that all INEC personnel have been trained and are aware that it is illegal to allow collection of PVCs by proxy, adding that officials of the commission who were found to have been involved in the act had been sanctioned.

The INEC boss also addressed the controversial issue of the role that Nigerian soldiers will play during the election, affirming that they will not be directly involved in providing security during the polls.

He stated that the role of the military as provided for in the Constitution “is to provide support to civil authority in case there is breakdown of law and order” during the election.

Jega stated that soldiers had never been present at polling units during elections in the country and that the tradition is to have about three unarmed policemen at the voting points, mobile policemen at about 300 metres from the polling units and soldiers and other security operatives at strategic locations in cities to prevent movements during voting.

Addressing the issue of the IDPs, he said the commission lacked the resources to ensure that displaced persons who have fled their homes to other states or other countries are able to cast their vote.

However, he assured that arrangements had been made for those who were still within their states to be able to exercise their civic rights and vote during the polls.

On voting by physically challenged persons Jega said that “physically challenged voters have a separate and expedited queue to enable them vote without stress.”

The INEC boss also dismissed insinuations that he was being pressured to resign from office, affirming that he was focused on the duty of conducting the March 28 and April 11 elections.



    “There has been speculation about my removal, as far as I’m concerned I have a job to do and have no reason to resign” Jega said

    Stating that he was not under any pressure to resign, he declared: “The issue of terminal leave is voluntary. Why will I resign when I have a constitutional duty? Until, April 11, I have a duty. I think it is a disservice for anybody to resign at a stage there is serious assignment like the one I am doing.

    “No sensible person, in my view, will contemplate leaving when there is a duty. I read about the pressure on me to resign or that anybody want to sack me on newspapers like everybody. Nobody has told me to proceed on terminal leave,” he said.

    Jega reiterated the commitment of INEC to the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections, stating that with the level of preparation for the 2015 polls, he was sure that the elections would be better conducted that the 2011 polls.


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