ELECTORAL MALPRACTICES AND CARD READER SYSTEM IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN TARABA STATE)
1.1 Background to the Study
The smart card reader was the most contentious issue in the 2015 general elections. The smart card reader was a critical component in these elections and it was being used for the first time in Nigeria’s electoral process. The card reader remains one of the greatest innovative technologies from the 2015 general elections. Past elections in Nigeria had witnessed the desperate bid for political power by some stakeholders with vested interests in Nigeria’s electoral process. Certain stakeholders engaged in all forms of electoral malpractices including multiple voting, impersonation, manipulation and falsification of results which led to legal action, electoral conflict and violence. Electoral malpractices make citizens lose confidence in the electoral process; and lack of confidence by citizenry in the democratic process is an impediment to deepening electoral democracy.
According to López-Pintor (2010, p. 9), electoral fraud has even more serious political implications in that it allows a party or candidate to take over public positions contrary to the popular will. The governments of Cote d’Ivoire, Peru and Serbia all collapsed in 2000 as a result of popular rebellions against fraudulent elections. Similarly, the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004 led to presidential elections being completely reheld after extensive fraud was demonstrated (López-Pintor 2010, p. 5).
The use of card readers at the 2015 general elections in Nigeria has infused some level of transparency and credibility into Nigeria electoral process (Okoro, 2015). It was observed that when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) first announced its plan to introduce card reader for the March 28 and April 11 2015 general elections, many Nigerians as well as politicians strongly opposed the idea. They felt that the card reader machine could have been test -run prior to the general elections to ensure hitch free elections. Besides, they felt that the country has not developed to a level where such technology could be employed for elections without prior test. Undoubtedly, the public outcry that greeted the planned use of card reader was enough to discourage Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from using it in the general elections. But because INEC has confidence in the efficacy of modern technology in achieving quick results, in addendum to its vision to transform the country’s electoral process from its archaic norms characterized by ballot box snatching and multiplicity of ballot tomb-printing, INEC went ahead and used the technology against all hitches (Vanguard, 2015).
Undoubtedly, the 2015 presidential election appears to be the most closely and keenly contested in the history of Nigeria elections because it was the first time four major opposition parties viz (ANPP, ACN, CPC and APGA) came together to form a formidable party, All Progressive Congress (APC) in order to challenge the preponderance and dominance of the ruling party (PDP) in the society. 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 technological based reforms like Biometric Register of Voters, Advanced Fingerprints Identification System were employed by Independent National Electoral Commission under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega. The election management body empowered by the 1999 constitution as amended of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to organise, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria.
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 most especially in Taraba state. Consequently, in Taraba state, concerned Nigerians doubted the credibility of the card reader in 2015 elections mostly especially the presidential election that produced General Mohamodu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress as the winner. Many electorates expressed their concern on the issue of the machine being malfunctioned in several polling units in the state as was seen in Takun Local Government Area where the result of the election was delayed due to the card malfunctioning. This study therefore sought to investigate the electoral malpractices and the card reader system in Nigeria with focus on the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In spite of the goals and objectives of the smart card reader, it generated debate among the 2015 general election actors before, during and after the polls. On the one hand, supporters of the card reader view the innovation as a deliberate effort to ensure the conduct of a free and fair election; on the other hand, there have been arguments that INEC has neither the legitimate authority nor capacity to use the card reader (Policy & Legal Advocacy Centre 2015b).
The proponents of the device, according to Peters (2015), believed the card reader procedure can prevent or minimise rigging in the sense that there would not be multiple voting. By contrast, opponents believe that in the peculiar circumstances of the Nigerian situation, the card reader is designed to assist a certain political party to win a general election. Peters (2015) maintained that the thrust of the latter argument is that the card reader must have been programmed to assist a pre-determined winner of the election by ensuring that a certain number of votes could not be given to another party. This would ensure victory by an INEC-preferred party. There have also been mutterings about the use of a faith-based bank to transfer money to print the PVCs and the configuration of the card reader. This study aimed to establish the electoral malpractices and the card reader system in Nigeria with focus on the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state.
1.3 Research Questions
These are some of the questions the study is designed to answer:
i) what are the effects of card readers on the credibility of 2015 presidential election in Taraba state?
ii) what are the reliability of the card reader during the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state?
iii) what are the reactions of the electorates toward the card reader during the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study was to establish the electoral malpractices and the card reader system in Nigeria with focus on the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state. The specific objectives however, were:
i) to determine the effects of card readers on the credibility of 2015 presidential election in Taraba state
ii) to investigate the reliability of the card reader during the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state
iii) to assess the reactions of the electorates toward the card reader during the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state
1.5 Significance of the Study
The results from this finding would educate the general public on the importance of the use of card reader for elections. This research will also serve as a resource to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study investigated the electoral malpractices and the card reader system in Nigeria with focus on the 2015 presidential election in Taraba state. Therefore, this will be limited to the electorates who witnessed the electoral process in the state and as well as all the party agents notably PDP, APC, Labour Party, Accord Party and the KOWA Party present in the presidential election in all the polling units in the state.
1.7 Limitation of the study
Time constraint was the major challenge of this study. The researcher was simultaneously engaged in this study with other academic work. This consequently cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
The following terms were used in the course of this study:
Card reader: an electronic device that reads and transfers data from various portable memory storage devices.
Electoral malpractice: manipulation of electoral processes and outcomes so as to substitute personal or partisan benefit for the public interest.
Presidential election: The act or process of electing someone to fill an office or position: Officers are chosen by election and not by appointment
ELECTORAL MALPRACTICES AND CARD READER SYSTEM IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF 2015 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN TARABA STATE), POLITICAL SCIENCE PROJECT TOPICS AND MATERIALS