The Need For Post-Election Forensics In Nigeria


31 Jan 2012

By Aminu F. Hamajoda

It is amazing that only a single political entity (the CPC) is insisting that a pretentious electronic election project be taken to a logical conclusion in a nation that prior to 2011, has fervently clamoured and had expended over 132 billion Naira for clean elections. Nigerians must recall that INEC had promised e-voting system in 2011 and received funds for that before it defaulted due to poor ICT planning in the face of the challenges end-to-end biometric election portents.

This default has resulted into serious difficulties in voter registration across the country despite spending over N90 million on ICT consultancies. Biometric based elections are designed to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of every vote, i.e that only eligible voters vote and that they vote only once. A completely biometric optical voting ensures the above automatically. However, if for any reason a combined method of biometric database and paper based voting is introduced, then a post-balloting forensic involving some randomly selected boxes should be subjected to finger print analysis and audit. INEC has dubiously exonerated itself from this phase calling on any petitioner to go to court.

 The courtroom is not a place for computer-related verifications nor is the onus of the exercise resting on opposition parties. The nation has again missed a point and Nigerians are gullibly snowed as they are ever worn to. Scientific methods like biometric-based elections require more than observation of election process to include ballot auditing. INEC's concern with privacy in auditing ballot boxes is nonsense because auditing will focus on only fingerprints not the identity of the voters or the vote papers. Only a computer machine can uncover ballot box stuffing and multiple thumb printing. Recently INEC belatedly announced over 8000 double registrations. Why is the commission not going further to announce to the nation how many votes are multiple thumbprints!

The duty of post-election forensic audit rests on either INEC or a constitutionally elected body. Such a body will carry out the exercise not necessarily to overturn elections, but to achieve the national aim for greater election integrity as the basis for democracy and peace. Distrust for election results is the major cause for post election violence in Africa. Why bargain for potential violence when a clean election system can be established. Clean elections do seemingly take place in cities and towns where foreign observers, party agents and voters themselves ensure that. However, behind hills, rural areas, creeks etc, many types of rigging take place especially where opposition is weak.

The only way to eliminate ballot-based rigging is to insert a post-election phase for ballot auditing. This forensic exercise should be done by a body made of party leaders, security agents, NGOs, and other selected stakeholders in an audit exercise based on random techniques. Certainly it is wrong for any contending party to request for all ballot boxes in the federation. Limiting the number of boxes to be audited can mitigate the overwhelming technical challenge of comparing electronic fingerprints to paper fingerprints. Ballot boxes can be randomly selected from the 111,430 wards of the federation based on geopolitical zones, states, senatorial districts or other electoral demarcations. Even the selection of six ballot boxes to represent the six geopolitical zones can suffice. The aim of the random technique is to limit selection of boxes based on sound random criteria to ensure the exercise is completed within a week after election. If as alleged votes in the South Eastern states are bloated during the presidential election, why wasn't a random technique used to select few ballot boxes for auditing? Consumer scanners and suitable biometric audit software can implement such an audit exercise to the satisfaction of stakeholders.

Failure to imbibe post-election forensics by INEC will render the biometric basis of the electoral process useless and a hoax. The heart of democracy is voting and denying an openly verifiable system is like stabbing the heart of democracy. Again, the aim of the exercise is not to overturn presidential or gubernatorial elections but to help ensure the integrity of elections. The use of modern voting technology is not for ostentation but a model to ensure trust by providing verifiable election processes. How can INEC that promised end-to-end biometric voting system shrug of its responsibility for electronic tallying of votes? If the commission is facing technical difficulties, it should come out plainly to tell Nigerians the challenges it is facing now that it has the sympathy of Nigerians.

It is even more pertinent that the National Assembly put an end to the rackets civic projects are reduced to in Nigeria. Since the 1970s, civic projects like Census, National ID Card, and Voter registration has gulped in billions of Naira. A National Civic Registration Commission that can register birth, death, marriages, national identity, voter eligibility, etc on a continuous rather than expensive periodic basis, should be enacted. Civic registration offices should be opened in all wards of the federation for civic registration matters and maintenance of related records. Thousands of under-aged Nigerians have since the last elections qualified to be registered and many registered voters have died, millions of National ID cards are currently worthless due to changes in age, occupation, addresses and other relevant fields. The yearly increase in population and other demographic records are never captured since the last census. Previous voter registrations data since 1960s have been jettisoned! It is time we centralize and preserve civic registrations, and ensure it is done on a continuous basis using the benefits of modern technology while institutions like INEC should be left to conduct elections alone.

Aminu F. Hamajoda (aminufhamajoda@yahoo.com)

 

  EsinIslam.Com

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