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Nigeria prospecting for electronic voting technology provider

Electoral commission holds largest biometric database in country

biometric-voter-registration-deduplication-project

Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria, says it is in search of a voting technology supplier in order to take a step further in the digitization of its entire electoral process, which includes biometric identity verification. The country is looking forward to introducing electronic voting as soon as 2021 for the governorship election in the southeastern State of Anambra, Nigerian daily newspaper This Day reports.

The head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Yakubu Mahmood, said recently that about 40 companies providing electronic voting machines had been invited to demonstrate their expertise in the domain, and show whether they will be able to meet the body’s specifications, the report notes.

Nigeria currently uses biometric technology for the registration of new voters on electoral rolls as well as the accreditation of registered voters using a Smart Card Reader (SCR). INEC’s biometric voter registry is also the largest database of Nigerian citizens, according to Yakubu.

At a ceremony to launch the demonstration of expertise of the companies being solicited to deploy their electronic voting technologies in Nigeria, Yakubu recounted the steps that have already been taken by the country to incorporate digital technology in its electoral process. These include the continuous updating of the biometric voter register.

“Most significantly, the commission now uploads polling unit level results in real-time on Election Day to a portal for public view. These are significant innovations that have deepened the transparency and credibility of elections and the electoral process in Nigeria,” the Nigerian newspaper quoted the INEC boss as saying.

He added that in the same vein, a lot has been done by INEC to put in place a digital system which has facilitated easy nomination of candidates for elective offices by political parties as well as the accreditation of observers and the media.

“Let me reassure Nigerians that the commission is committed to expediting the process leading to the deployment of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections in earnest,” the INEC head affirmed.

While INEC is working to secure the technology provider for the project and choose the kind of electronic voting system and biometric controls it wants to adopt, the country’s Parliament is also expected to work on proposed amendments to the electoral laws tabled before it already, in order to make way for the adoption of the new system.

Meanwhile, debates on the pros and cons of introducing electronic voting in Nigeria have been animating the public sphere, especially the media, lately. While some point out a number of claimed demerits of digitized voting, many appear to agree that such an experience is the best thing that can happen to the country’s elections in this era.

Nigerian newspaper The Guardian ran an editorial on 8 October patting INEC on the back for the proposed move. “…the embrace of technology in the conduct of our elections will, for sure, enhance our electoral process and the legitimacy of government. INEC should go on with this drive to improve the electoral process in the country…” a portion of the editorial read.

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