BY OUR CORRESPONDENTS
The field testing of card readers which was held on Saturday was largely successful but not without some hitches.
These irregularities in the exercise that was meant to be a dress rehearsal according to findings by our correspondents ranged from the inability of the card reader to identify some finger and thumb prints and slow pace of the process.
However, occurrences of success permeated most of the poll units visited by our correspondents.
The major grouse of electorate in Niger State was the time spent on the accreditation of each voter. This, many of the participants in the mock polls described as “too slow”
This drew the attention of both the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressive Congress in the state on Saturday which commended the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The state PDP Chairman, Umar Musa Maali, said “the time spent to accredit one voter is much. If it can take a minute per voter to be accredited, and with a polling unit like this place that has over 1,000 voters, it is going to take over 1,000 minutes, which is about 16 hours, to accredit all the voters. The 16 hours is more than the accredited time of five hours. I do not know how INEC is going to sort it out.”
The APC Publicity Officer in the State, Jonathan Vatsa, while speaking on his party’s concerns over the Internet connection, described the service as poor but that the party would ensure INEC’s attention is drawn to it so that all polling units are covered and captured during the elections.
INEC National Commissioner supervising Kaduna, Kwara, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Dr. Chris Iyimoga while addressing reporters, said the process of demonstration to the public was smooth except for few hitches with some card readers which could be due to finger identification.
He said “In some instances, people cleaned their hands with methylated spirit which has to do with the level of cleanliness of fingers, because, as soon as the fingers are clean, you will be through.”
He disclosed that over 70 per cent of eligible voters in Gwada ward had failed verification but were said to be eligible since the data in the PVC corresponded with the official list and also as the machine identified them as owners of PVCs.
Iyimoga also disclosed that if the information given by the electorate is correct, the voter will still be allowed to vote, adding that the Commission has backup for the card reader in case there are cases of malfunctioning.
In Ekiti State, the turnout was low.
[/media-credit] •An INEC officer verifying the fingerprint of Franca Oba at Niger Mixed Secondary School, Asaba, Delta State …on Saturday.
As of 11:30 a.m, no fewer than 60 people had been accredited in Dallimore polling unit 002 in the state capital. The technical officers stated that the average time for the accreditation ranged between four and six seconds.
Members of European Union Election Observers, Mrs Rumi Ana Decheva and Mr Uros Urstga, who monitored the mock accreditation commended INEC for the initiative, saying it would help in adding credibility to the country’s electoral process.
The chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Mr. Tunji Ogunlola, in an interview with our correspondent after monitoring the exercise said, “It is very transparent, reliable and fast. It will make rigging impossible.”
Ogunlola who said he monitored in company with a few other political parties commended the INEC for a job well done and advised all Nigerians to support the commission.
Former Commissioner for Tourism under ex-Governor Kayode Fayemi’s government, Alhaji Ayodele Jinadu, and ex-Chairman, Ado Ekiti Local Government, Mr Sunday Ibitoye, described the exercise as a huge success.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Sam Olumekun, who monitored the event said it had convinced Nigerians about the usefulness and relevance of the machines in the coming general elections.
He said, “We would have appreciated it if the turnout has been better than this, but we have been able to convince the people about the workability of the machines, which was the main issue.
In Delta State, the exercise was not without few hitches as our correspondent observed that INEC and voters alike reported to the 14 voting units promptly at 8am when it was scheduled to begin.
The units were located at Asagba Primary School and Niger Mixed Secondary School, all in Asaba. Six of the units were located were at Niger Mixed Secondary School while the rest were at Asagba Primary School.
Most of the verification went on smoothly, taking just a few seconds for the polling officials to interview and test each voter with the card reader.
But there were a few cases where the process caused anxious moments as it took several trials before the card reader could verify the few voters.
One of such incidents occurred at Polling Unit 12, where an elderly woman, Mrs. Franca Oba, and to endure for almost 30 minutes before her fingerprint was accepted by the card reader.
Unlike other voters that just came and had their fingerprints verified within a few seconds, Oba had to avail all her 10 fingers for verification for seven times before the reader verified hers.
In her reaction, Oba said, “The card reader is good. But if every voter has to go through this, then it means people will not leave the polling unit before midnight.”
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Delta State, Mr. Charles Ajuya (SAN), who monitored the exercise praised the efficiency of the card reader but said it would have been better if the exercise was taken to the rural areas.
The Chairman of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, Mr. Moses Ogbe, said, “From what I have seen, we should give the card reader a trial. It will go a long way to improve our elections and democracy.”
But he advised that water or spirits should be made available to clean the fingers of voters so that the verification process could be smoother and faster.
In Niger, 42 per cent of the eligible voters who presented themselves for the exercise were not accredited.
This was confirmed by the INEC on Saturday.
A National Commissioner of the commission Dr. Chris Iyimoga, while disclosing the figures from the 18 polling units in Gwada ward in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger state 1,799 voters were authenticated by the card reader.
According to him “The card reader out of 1,799 eligible voters that turned up, authenticated 1,045 voters with PVCs, leaving 754 unauthenticated”.
“With the figures we have, it shows that 58 per cent voters are authentic and 42 per cent are not authentic going by the card reader”.
In Lagos the turnout was low. Despite this, there were a few hitches. At the polling units our correspondent visited in Onigbongbo, Ikeja axis, most of the polling units recorded between two and five registered voters turnout, while in some others, no registered voter came out for the exercise.
INEC officials at the different poll units which recorded a few registered voters told our correspondent that it took between five to 20 seconds to capture the voter’s identity and finger print on the card reader devices. However, there were a few cases where the finger prints could not be accessed.
In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, there were also cases of finger prints not registering. This was noticed by United Nations observers.
Leader of the group, Mrs. Eno Udensi, who spoke, under the aegis of the United Nations Election Observers, explained that based on her observation, the card readers were working.
Udensi, who was at the State Primary School, Orominike to observe the test-run of card readers by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, stated that though there were some minor challenges in the exercise, it would not affect the use of the items during the elections.
“The machines are working, even though the thumb printing is failing in most cases, the face of registered voters appears on the card reader. Some came with oily hands that make their cards difficult to read.
“While it took about one or two minutes for the card reader to okay one person, a particular person had to wait for 15 minutes before the card reader was able to read his thumb print. But the photographs are showing on the card readers,” she said.
Also, an INEC staff at Units 4,5,6 and 7 in Orominike State Primary School, said the card readers were hanging while trying to authenticate eligible voters’ data.
The commission’s employee, who preferred anonymity, said the card readers worked well in some cases.
Earlier, a 25-year-old man, Princewill Obioma, whose PVC could not be read by all the card readers used at the State Primary School, Orominike, expressed bitterness over the development.
In Ebonyi, the exercise was marred by the slow pace in the authentication of PVCs.
Our correspondent observed that the card reader took over 20 minutes to authenticate a single PVC, which is done by matching the fingerprints in the database, during the exercise which took place at Izzi Unuhu, in Abakiliki Local Government Area.
At Nkaliki Echara Primary School, out of 25 persons verified as at a point during the exercise, only six were successfully authenticated.
It was the same scenario at Edukwu Inyimagu Hall, where only three persons, out of about 70 verified voters, were successfully authenticated at a particular time.
However, those whose fingerprints could not be verified by the card reader had their names and pictures on the voters register.
However, while the authentication process was slow, the card reader was very fast in verifying the voters cards.
Accreditation for the exercise, which held in 24 polling units in Unuhu Ward 10, started by 8:00 am and rounded up by 1:00 pm.
Addressing journalists, the Ebonyi state Resident Electoral Commissioner for INEC, Dr. Lawrence Azubuike, who acknowledged that the authentication process was slow, noted that all the challenges encountered in the exercise would be addressed before the general elections.
In Nasarawa, the inability of card readers to verify the finger print of voters occured as many voters who turned out for the exercise complained of delay in the capturing of their fingers print by machine.
At Garaku Primary School polling unit, out of the 10 registered voters accredited, four people were successfully captured but it took about 15 minutes for the card reader to capture the finger prints of the accredited voters after several attempts.
The situation was similar at Otutu primary school, Fegen Angwa, Agwan Gimba, Agwan Takwa, Kurmi
Shinkafa and Kubere and Kofar Magaji Alade and Agaba polling units. In an interview with our correspondent, some of the voters, Mr.
Dangoje Mohammed, Gaya Umar Rico and John Dangana, who suffered delay in capturing their fingers by the card readers, protested the several minutes they spent during their accreditation exercise.
Reacting to the reported performance of the card readers, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, said the outcome of Saturday’s test-run exercise of the voting devices was satisfactory.
“What we have seen in the test-run of the card readers is not out of the ordinary. The so-called hitches observed were things the INEC chairman had already highlighted. The report that the devices recorded low success is not correct. In Lagos alone, we recorded 90 per cent success in the test-run. We can assure all Nigerians that INEC is ready to deploy the card readers for the general elections. We are absolutely confident of the device,” Idowu said.
Culled from PUNCH