The negative perception of stakeholders and eligible voters in Nigeria over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) new technology innovation known as Card-Reader is gradually changing following the recent conduct of the Mock accreditation exercise last Saturday in 12 states of the Federation. Bauchi is among the 12 states.
The National Commissioner in charge of Bauchi, Borno and Yobe states in the North east zone, Col. Hammanga K. Kurmi (Rtd) and his team led other resident commissioners of the states to Jamaare ‘B’ Registration area of Jamaare local government of Bauchi State for the mock accreditation exercise. It was aimed at test running the efficiency of the INEC new innovation smart Card reader on the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
Kurmi who was accompanied by two other National commissioners from the neigbhouring states to Bauchi told Daily Times that Prof. Jega’s decision to test run the smart card reader in the selected 12 states of the federation for the mock election was borne out of his commitment to a thorough exercise.
Col. Kurmi who also inspected and supervised the exercise in a number of places to ensure fairness said the test running became necessary as Nigeria is experimenting with different methods to nurture and sustain its nascent democracy in order to be devoid of manipulation and rigging.
He explained that the ‘mock election’ was conducted for making voters and Nigerians as a whole not only to understand but to appreciate and accept the processes and procedures and the viability of the machine.
Bauchi State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Hamman Tukur Saad dismissed campaigns by some groups and politicians rejecting the use of card readers during the general elections, noting that it would further strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Prof. Sa’ad stated that with the mock elections, the commission is ready to conduct the upcoming general election in the country assuring that the commission was ready to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
His words: “nobody should have any fear that his or her vote will not count. I conducted election in Borno in 2011 and when I was leaving the state, all political parties and stakeholders were all happy because I gave everyone a level playing field”.
He promised that no one will be shortchanged in the forthcoming election and solicited for the support and cooperation of the people and government of Bauchi State in order to ensure that the election was not only credible but violence free adding that what causes election related violence is the perception by the public that results did not tally with their votes.
According to him, the state government is expected to be part of the team to ensure free and credible election, promising to work as a team to make sure that everybody is given his due adding that once this is done there will be no violence.
He assured the people that the era of election malpractice and rigging by politicians is gone for good, calling on the electorate to ensure that those elected to steer the polity are truly the choice of the people.
He announced that INEC had received 5,385 Smart Card readers and 4,749 Ballot boxes, pointing out that the commission’s decision to use card readers for the election was to add value and credibility to the process and remove all tendencies for manipulations and expressed satisfactory for the turn out of residents and indigenes of the state towards the collection of the PVCs.
The commissioner also called on the electorate in the state to ensure that they take advantage of the two weeks extension and collect their PVCs.
Director, Voter Education and Publicity said they encountered only a minor problem in one of the polling units where the Card reader was configured to start from 8:00 am to 9 am instead of 1pm which was later resolved and the exercise went on smoothly. But the state recorded a low turn-out of registered voters at the various polling stations.
The Exercise which held in Jama’re B registration Area of Jamare’re local government in the state, comprised of 14 polling units started around 8am, ended at 1.pm.
Visits to some of the polling units including: Horare Polling unit, Yola Polling unit, Jeyogel polling unit, Digiza Kofar Jauro polling unit, Azizi Primay School Polling station and Jabbori polling station, revealed a low turn-out as people were still reluctant to come out because it was a mock exercise.
In Jeyogel polling station 009, the total number of registered voters was 405, but only 109 turned out for the accreditation, out of which 83 voters finger prints were successfully captured while 26 failed the verification exercise.
As at 11.30am, the average battery strength of the card reader devices at the various polling units was 78 percent, which shows that the device could function for more than eight hours or more.
Yola Polling unit 008, had a total number of 650 registered voters, but only 104 turned out for the exercise. The number of captured finger prints at the polling unit was 81 while 23 failed the verification.
One of the participants who is also a voter and Head of Jeyogel community, Malam Yau Mohammed told Daily Times that the exercise has enlightened and educated them on the Smart Card Reader and modalities associated with electoral matters noting that the exercise was coming at the right time to address some of the problems and confusion surrounding the issue of the Card Reader