As residents of Edo State prepare to elect the next governor of the state on Saturday September 19, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has revealed that it would make use of digital tools to monitor the distribution of sensitive electoral materials across the state.
INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu who disclosed this on Monday during the Commission’s stakeholders meeting in Benin City, Edo state explained that they had made arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to all polling units on Election Day.
It added that the electoral umpire will not be using the new technology, Z-pad, for facial authentication as it still needs to be tested.
He said, “To underscore our commitment to a credible and transparent electoral process in Nigeria, the Commission is determined to deepen the deployment of technology in elections.
“It is for this reason that the Commission recently built portals for the nomination of candidates by political parties as well as the accreditation of election observers and the media. We have used the portals seamlessly in preparing for the Edo Governorship election.
“The same applies to the Ondo Governorship election. We will deploy the same platforms for all subsequent elections, including the forthcoming bye-elections in 15 constituencies across 11 States of the Federation scheduled for 31st October 2020. We are working to ensure that in future elections, even the accreditation of polling agents nominated by political parties will also be done online.
“Perhaps the most critical of the recent innovations introduced by the Commission is the use of a tablet now popularly called the z-pad.
“It is a new innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader.
“Secondly, the camera on the tablet will be used to take a picture of the polling unit result (EC8A) and to upload same on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV). This will enable all those interested in viewing the results to do so in real time. The Commission deployed the z-pad in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election in Nasarawa State on 8th August 2020.
“It was a test-run intended to assess the functionality of the technology before its deployment in major elections. While the capture and upload of polling unit level result went on smoothly, the facial authentication did not. Without going into the technical details, let me say that the Commission encountered hardware and software issues which needed to be fixed.
“Our ICT Department worked on the new device and made a presentation to the Commission which decided that the system needs to be robust enough before it can be deployed in a major election.
“Unlike the 44 polling units of the Nasarawa Central State Constituency, the Edo Governorship election involves 2,627 polling units. The Commission decided that since this technology is work in progress, we should carry out a further test-run in some of the smaller constituencies during the bye-elections scheduled for 31st October 2020 and thereafter engage with stakeholders before it can be deployed in major elections.
“The atmosphere in Edo State ahead of the election this weekend is already charged. We cannot afford to complicate it further by introducing a new technology we are not yet fully satisfied with.
“However, the uploading of polling unit level results in the election on Saturday will proceed as planned. The z-pads have already been delivered, configured and ad hoc staff trained on its deployment on Election Day.
“Enough chargers have been provided to address the power problem identified during the Nasarawa test-run. We envisage that there will be a high traffic of persons interested in viewing the results in real time.
“Consequently, the Commission has dynamically expanded the result viewing portal to accommodate almost two million viewers at the same time without clogging. To view the uploaded results, please visit our website (www.inecelectionresults.com) to register and create an account.
“I must quickly add that the Smart Card Readers will be used for voter verification and authentication. This is a mandatory requirement and where it is deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines.
“Earlier, the Commission translated and published its policy of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Voters’ Code of Conduct into braille in order to ensure greater awareness and effective participation of all citizens in the electoral process irrespective of disability.
“The Commission is also aware of the concern expressed in some quarters about the neutrality of our staff, in particular the ad hoc staff engaged for election duty.
“We have heard allegations that some ad hoc staff were recruited in such a manner as to compromise the election. In response, the Commission deployed two National Commissioners who reviewed the process for strict compliance with the guidelines for such recruitment.
“I want to assure you that all categories of ad hoc staff have been vetted. The integrity of the process will not be compromised and there will be no partisan infiltration”.