BY JOHN AMEH, SOLA FABIYI AND OLALEKAN ADETAYO
The Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress on Sunday disagreed on the outcome of the mock testing of the card readers conducted on Saturday by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh , said it had noted a series of complaints by Nigerians regarding lapses experienced during the exercise.
It therefore challenged on the commission to tell the public the outcome of the testing
The party claimed that the fall-out of the test “vindicates earlier widespread calls by stakeholders that the card readers should be thoroughly tested to ascertain their workability before the general elections. “
The PDP expressed worry over the alleged lapses which it said included but “not limited to non-verification of voters’ fingerprints even after authenticating their PVCs, slow accreditation process as a result of poor internet server operations in some locations, and apparent inadequate knowledge of the card readers by both INEC officials and voters.”
It added that “Our response to the emerging problems and challenges from Saturday’s
testing of the card reader is ‘RES IPSA LOQUITOR’- the fact speak for
itself. The PDP and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians await INEC’s official response and or its final decision after such defining challenges.”
But APC’s National Woman Leader, Ramatu Aliyu, said the party was satisfied by the outcome of the test and was therefore still in support of the use of the card readers for the general elections.
“On the March 28 date for the elections we stand. We stand for the use of card readers because they will guarantee one man, one vote,” she said.
Earlier, the APC and PDP caucuses in the House of Representatives maintained their differing positions on the use of the card readers for the polls.
While the PDP caucus members warned that the Independent National Electoral Commission was taking a “huge gamble” by insisting on the use of the card readers, its APC counterpart, argued that they(card readers) would go a long way in eliminating rigging during the polls.
The Deputy House Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, spoke for the PDP caucus and the Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Ali Ahmad, for the APC caucus.
Ogor told The PUNCH that his colleagues in the still believed that the card readers would lead to the disenfranchisement of many eligible voters on the days of the elections.
He pointed out that the result of denying people the right to vote was usually “anarchy.”
Ogor stated that no nation introduces “innovations” into its electoral process at the point of voting, adding that new technologies ought to have been applied and certified okay long before the actual casting of ballots.
He said, “Innovations are good but you don’t introduce them when the elections are in the corner.
“It is not just the testing; it is the ability to make sure that the system is perfect and won’t fail that matters.
“Assuming we run into problems during voting, what happens? INEC probably will not be there with back-up machines for card readers.
“Are you going to shift elections in one particular polling unit? What happens when you have a total breakdown in the system?
“What we don’t want is a state of anarchy where everybody will be complaining and it will become an embarrassment to the whole nation.”
He also faulted the technology on point of law, arguing that using it would run foul of the Electoral Act, 2010.
According to Ogor, Section 49 of the Act spells out the procedure for accrediting voters, which “does not provide for the use of any card reader.
He noted that the extant law only provided that the presiding officer “shall” accredit a voter for voting on presentation of his voters card upon identifying his name in the register of voters.
The lawmaker added.”So, you will see that this law doesn’t accommodate or envisage any card reader.
“If we continue to progress in error thinking that we are on the right path, in the end, the result will be anarchy, especially when many realise that they have been disenfranchised.
“The technology introduced in respect of this is innovative like I said. But, it runs foul of the law.”
But, Ahmad,disapproved of the position taken by his PDP colleagues, saying any view opposing the use of card readers at “this time is baseless.”
He argued that there was no point conducting the elections if the card readers would not be used.
“If there is no card reader, there should be no elections. They should just go ahead and declare the PDP as the winner,” the lawmaker added.
Investigation by The PUNCH in Abuja however revealed that the Federal Government had no plan to stop the use of the card readers.
A top government official, who asked not to be named, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that those who had been moving against the use of the device were not speaking the mind of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The official said as far as the government was concerned, the use of the card readers was in accordance with the Electoral Act.
He said the legal advice before the President was that the Act mandates presiding officers at different polling booths to verify the voter cards presented by intending voters and ensure that their names were in the voter register.
The official said, “The Electoral Act empowers a presiding officer to verify and ascertain that the name of whoever presented his or herself for voting is in the voter register. Whichever way the electoral officer or the electoral body intends to do the verification is left for them.”
He stated that only those who plan to manipulate the electoral process were asking INEC not to use the card readers.
The government official also said there was no iota of truth in the claim that Jonathan would ask Jega to proceed on terminal leave before the elections.
He said the INEC boss was appointed by the President on a fixed tenure that would expire in June.
He added that Jega would not go before June because he was not appointed under the civil service rule.
Culled from PUNCH