THE EFFECT OF CARD READERS ON ELECTION CREDIBILITY
The use of card readers at the 2015 general election in Nigeria has infused some level of transparency and credibility into Nigeria's electoral process (Okonji, 2015). It was observed that when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) first announced its plan to introduce card reader machine for the March 28 and April 11 2015 general elections, many Nigerians, especially politicians, vehemently opposed to it. They felt the country has not developed to a level where such technology can be employed for elections. Besides, they felt the uses of card reader would disrupt the entire electoral processes.
The public outcry that greeted the planned introduction of card reader machines was enough to discourage INEC from introducing it. However, because of INEC confidence in the efficacy of modern technologies in achieving quick results, coupled with its vision to transform the country's electoral process from its old norms that was characterized by ballot box snatching and multiplicity of ballot tomb-printing, INEC went ahead and introduced the technology against all odds (Vanguard, 2015). However, many technology experts in Nigeria and outside, who monitored the elections are full of praises for INEC for insisting on the use of card reader machines, saying it is the best thing that has ever happened to the Nigerian electoral process in the area of election transparency. They have called on the electoral umpire to introduce card reader machines in subsequent elections, believing it is a sure way to achieve transparency and credibility in every election.
Election is the process of choosing a candidate for public office. Election is a critical component of any democratic society. As such, Nigeria’s returned to democratic rule and engagement with the democratic process led to the conduct of its general elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. General elections are elections conducted in the federation at large for federal and state elective positions (The Electoral Institute, 2015). The 2015 presidential election appears to be the most keenly contested in the history of elections in Nigeria because it was the first time about four major opposition parties came together to form a very strong party, All Progressive Congress (APC) in order to challenge the dominance of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the polity. Indeed, according to Omotola (2013), the election became the only game in town, shaping and reshaping public discourse and political actions.
Prior to the 2015 general elections, a number of technologically based reforms (e.g. biometric Register of Voters, Advanced Fingerprints Identification System) were embarked upon by the new leadership (headed by Prof Attairu Jega) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the election management body empowered by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to organize, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria.
However, despite the confidence of INEC in the use of card reader in the 2015 general elections, the machines came with some challenges, even though the elections have been widely adjudged as being successful. For instance, during the March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections across the country, the card readers malfunctioned in several polling units, a situation that caused undue delay in the accreditation process. It, however, worked perfectly in other polling units. The challenges ranged from rejection of permanent voter's card (PVC) by the card readers, inability to capture the biometrics from finger tips, to irregular capturing and fast battery drainage. INEC officials have to abandon their polling units and took the card readers back to their office for proper configuration. In order to salvage the situation, which was almost becoming frustrating, INEC ordered the use of manual process for accreditation, But before the order could go round the states and local government areas, it was already late to conduct accreditation and actual voting in some areas, a situation that forced INEC to extend the exercise to the next day in all affected areas.
Concerned about the massive electoral fraud witnessed in the past general elections in Nigeria, INEC deployment of the card reader in 2015 general elections was to ensure a credible, transparent, free and fair election in order to deepen Nigeria’s electoral democracy. However, the used of the electronic device in the 2015 general elections generated debate among election stakeholders before, during and after the elections.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The 2015 presidential election was the closest electoral contest since the country’s post-1999 transition to multi-party democracy (International Republican Institute, 2015). The election is the most politically engaged in the history of electoral democracy in Nigeria. Huge resources were used for the elections including 120 billion naira expended by INEC, 750,000 ad-hoc election staff with over 360,000 security personnel including the use of card readers to ensure credibility and transparency. The presidential election was contested by fourteen candidates from different political parties. However, the candidates of the PDP (Dr Goodluck Jonathan) and APC (General Muhammadu Buhari) were the major contenders in the election. However, the researcher is out to examine the effect of card readers on the election credibility in Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The following are the objectives of this study:
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
HO: There is no significant relationship between card readers and 2015 presidential election credibility in Nigeria
HA: There is significant relationship between card readers and 2015 presidential election credibility in Nigeria
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are the significance of this study:
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study on the effect of card readers on the election credibility in Nigeria will cover the processes involved in the conduct of 2015 presidential election with special focus on the influence of the card reader on the outcome of the election.
LIMITATIONS OF STUDY
Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
The real issue in the 2015, presidential election bore down to the use of the card reader machine, as a novel to the electoral System in Nigeria. The card reader was a critical component that distinguished the 2015 presidential election from other presidential elections so far conducted in Nigeria. It was the first time in the history of Nigeria that card reader was used in the electoral process and it remains one of the greatest technological device setup to authenticate and verify electorates. The permanent voter card (PVC) issued by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was verified with the aforementioned machine to ensure credibility and authenticity, transparency, and free and fair election in order to deepen democracy in Nigeria. Meanwhile, one of the unsolved puzzles in the last general election was the failure of card readers in some pulling units to capture the biometric data of some electorates. The objective of the study: to examine the effect of card readers on the election credibility; ascertain the reliability of card readers during the electoral process; look at the debate on the legality or illegality of card readers and identify the challenges inherent in the use of card readers. The method adopted was constant undertaking of trips to relevant offices for data collection and through internet. The design was ex-post facto design and data collected were analyzed through expository mechanism using data reduction, display and conclusion. The study use Decision Making Theory as the Theoretical Framework to establish the relationship existing among the variables. Findings: the essence of card reader was to enhance hitch free election; minimize electoral malpractice and improve Nigeria electoral system. Base on our findings, we recommend for massive enlightenment and sensitization of the public; extensive and intensive training of man power personnel and dealing with the irregularities identified during the last general election such as rejection of finger tips and fast battery drainage among others.