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No funds yet allocated to Nigeria’s 2023 digital voting plan

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The Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC) is increasingly concerned about the continued lack of funds for it to go ahead with the purchase of digital voting machines for the country’s 2023 general elections, reports Nigerian newspaper, Leadership.

Leadership quotes an anonymous source within the INEC as saying that as well as the budget first being approved by the National Assembly before it can proceed with plans for purchasing the equipment, the commission must also receive further approval for such large spending commitments. Others interpret electoral decisions to be independent of the need for approval by politicians.

The budget has not yet been passed as lawmakers are apparently divided over the introduction of the digital transfer of the results component of the system, as detailed in a different report by The Guardian.

INEC remains poised to introduce digital voting in Nigeria as top officials of the election management body have reiterated on a number of occasions lately. Their objective is to deliver free, fair, and transparent elections that will be accepted by a vast majority of Nigerians.

The electoral Commission says it is handling four components of the digital voting system, and they include the Electronic Voter Register (EVR), Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), Electronic Voter Authentication (EVA), and Electronic Transmission of Results (ETR), according to Leadership.

Last year, the body said it was already prospecting for potential companies for the supply of the digital voting system when the time comes. INEC had also said previously that it planned to acquire up to 200,000 digital voting machines for the roughly 190,000 polling stations in the country, Leadership states.

Talks about the current lack of funds for the implementation of the digital voting system in Africa’s largest democracy come at a time when disagreements grow among the political class over the full introduction of the process.

The House of Representatives recently passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which, in its Article 52 (3) does not expressly allow for the digital transfer of election results from all the country’s 36 States and the federal capital territory, to INEC’s headquarters.

Ruling party lawmakers of the All Progressive Congress (APC) believe Nigeria is not yet ready for the component of digital transmission of results because of poor telecoms coverage, but those of the opposition party and some advocacy groups hold that expressly allowing for digital transfer of election results in the Electoral Act will help guard against fraud and enhance transparency.

In a reaction on the matter quoted by Leadership, PDP Chairman, Uche Secondus, expressed concerns that INEC was trying to abdicate its constitutional responsibility. He said the existing Electoral Act and the Constitution of Nigeria give exclusive powers to INEC to conduct credible elections, and so do not need the approval of the National Assembly to decide what electoral procedure will be good for the country.

In a similar set of circumstances, Nigeria’s data protection policy, the NDPR, was not discussed or approved by the National Assembly meaning it is not binding.

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