The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed plan to launch electronic voting ahead of forthcoming elections in 2023.

The Commission noted that it has began the analysis of the various electronic voting machines showcased by over 50 companies.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye who disclosed the development added that it remained committed to introducing electronic voting machines in the electoral process to replace the manual system that had put the commission under heavy logistics burden, including the printing of electoral papers and hiring of thousands of adhoc staff, among others.

“It is difficult to give you an idea of cost or when the process would be concluded, but we are determined that we are going to deploy electronic voting machines, electronic balloting machines very soon in our elections, possibly beginning with the Anambra governorship election in 2021.”

However, in an interview with PUNCH, Okoye said,

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The commission is presently engaged in the procurement of INEC Voter Enrolment Devices (IVED) for the planned Voter Register update processes.

These devices will be used to enrol Nigerians that have attained the age of 18 years, clean up the voters register and acquire additional biometric that will be in consonance with the use of Electronic Voting machines.

The commission invited over 50 companies engaged in hard and software production to demonstrate the different brands and versions of their Electronic Voting Machines.

The companies demonstrated the different Electronic Voting Machine solutions available. “Some of the companies demonstrated the solutions virtually. The commission is analysing all the demonstrated systems for purposes of choosing the ones that are in tandem with our ecosystem, is rugged, simple to use and easily maintained.”

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Some political watchers who spoke to one of our correspondents however called on the commission to ensure the process was transparent so as not to deflate the anticipated benefits and people’s confidence in the proposed e-voting system.

As a preparation to launch the new system, Okoye also seeks Electoral Act amendment to allow e-voting.

Asked if INEC was still committed to electronic voting in 2023, Okoye said, “The commission is committed to deepening the use of technology in the electoral process and the commission is committed to the introduction of electronic voting machines in Nigeria.

We are therefore attending to procurement issues under the shadow of the pandemic.

“The pandemic no doubt affected and still affects production capacities of hardware and software companies.

“We are also looking forward to the amendments of the electoral legal framework that will domicile more concretely the use of technology in the electoral process.”

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There has been divided opinions on whether the country was ripe for electronic voting, but Yakubu said at the inauguration of the 1999 Constitution Review Committee of the House of Representatives in October 2020 that elections in the country were too manual, expensive, cumbersome and archaic.

He also said that “the encumbrance of the deployment of full technology in elections should be removed.”

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