- INEC upgrades PVC’s security
Iheanacho Nwosu, Godwin Tsa, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, Job Osazuwa and Chukwudi Nweje
There is a growing concern and apprehension among prominent Nigerians, including politicians, lawyers as well as political parties and organisations over alleged attempts to clone and sell the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) on a foreign online business portal, alibaba.com.
In their separate reactions, yesterday, they condemned the development and tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct thorough investigation into the scam and sanction those found wanting.
Wikipedia lists alibaba.com as a Chinese multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology conglomerate founded in 1999 that provides consumer-to-consumer, business- to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals, as well as electronic payment services, shopping search engines and cloud computing services. It owns and operates a diverse array of businesses around the world in numerous sectors.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has upgraded the PVCs.
INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, in a statement on Sunday, said the electoral agency had heard of such attempts and has taken security steps to protect the PVC, ahead of 2019.
“We wish to assure the public that the Commission had anticipated these and proactively taken measures to preserve and further secure our electoral materials. Several security features and secret source codes are contained in the SmartCard Readers which enable them to read only PVCs duly issued by the Commission. The advertisement shows photographs of blank cards which have not been personalised and which do not contain any details.
“This notwithstanding, the Commission wishes to state that it takes these reports seriously and will engage the government and security agencies as well as the promoters of the platform in order to get to the root of it and take all necessary action to take down the advertisement forthwith.
“In addition to the existing features, the Commission is already working to further secure the PVCs and the Smart Card Readers and will continue to protect them from unauthorised and malicious access. It is for this reason that, beginning from next week, we are commencing the systematic hardware and software upgrade of all the Smart Card Readers nationwide.
“It is worthy of note that this enhancement had already been successfully done in Ekiti and Osun, preparatory to the upcoming governorship elections in both states. We wish to reassure the public that our systems are robust even as we continue to fortify them ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
Notwithstanding INECs assurance, the Atiku Campaign Organisation said the reports that blank PVCs were being sold on alibaba.com was not only disheartening, but casts slur on the security and integrity of next year’s general election.
The campaign organisation in an open letter by its Director General, Chief Gbenga Daniel urged the security and INEC to intervene and stop the trend .
“I write this open letter because my attention has been drawn to an egregious breach of Nigeria’s electoral integrity and thus our national security, by the sale of Nigerian Permanent Voter Cards, on alibaba.com.
“We are very concerned about this security breach because it threatens Nigeria’s desire to build strong institutions, like the Independent National Electoral Commission. A situation like this could lead to massive vote buying and thus thwart our efforts and instead create strong men where we want to enable strength in institutions.
“Permanent Voter Cards were used in the 2015 Nigerian elections and the alibaba platform was also in existence then, yet we did not have this breach. That precedence leads me to believe that if alibaba.com refuses to lend its platform to those unscrupulous elements who want to thwart Nigeria’s democracy, we would greatly increase the chances of a free and fair Nigerian election in 2019.
“Therefore, I appeal to you to use your good offices to permanently remove these items from alibaba.com Furthermore, I do kindly ask you to consider sharing information with Nigeria’s security apparatus that may help expose any impropriety.
“The world is currently witnessing the unfolding of allegations, counter allegations and investigations into election meddling in the 2016 American Presidential elections. These occurrences have ensnared several technology, IT and social media platforms including Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Twitter just to mention a few.
“Their involvement has had far reaching political and economic impact which has affected their market capitalisation and consumer confidence. It is also in the light of preventing such a scenario involving Nigeria and alibaba.com that I make these appeals. I trust that I can count on your cooperation.”
It’s criminal – Lawyers
Lawyers who spoke with Daily Sun said the issue is criminal and deserved thorough investigation by security agency.
According to Chief Solo Akuma (SAN), INEC should act fast so that the cloned PVC did not get into the hands of people who may want to use it to rig the forthcoming general elections.
“If the situation is not arrested, it will create over voting at some polling units.” Akuma stated.
Spokesperson to the President Muhammadu Buhari re-election campaign, Festus Keyamo (SAN) equally called for a proper investigation.
“This is a serious allegation that must be properly investigated. It is a criminal matter and whoever is found culpable should be punished,” Keyamo said.
Ohanaeze, Afenifere react
President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, said the com- mission must come up with detailed explanation rather than making allegation with- out providing the substance.
According to Nwodo, the electoral commission has a history of raising issues without providing details.
“They should offer us better particulars and stop raising issues without providing particulars. If they said they found an attempt, what is the evidence, who is behind the attempt? Is it being done here in Nigeria or abroad? Have the people behind it been arrested?
“We have already told them that they are registering underaged children. They said they have made a report, but up till now the report has not been made public. So INEC should stop raising issues without providing particulars. I am a lawyer so I expect them to provide details of what they say”, Nwodo said.
On his part, Afenifere chieftain, Ayo Adebanjo, said INEC as the electoral umpire should be held responsible for whatever shortcomings associated with elections.
As far as Adebanjo is concerned, the masterminds of the cloning are trying to win election at all cost.
“Are they not the people in-charge or are saying they don’t know about it? As far as I am concerned, the INEC chairman should be held responsible for whatever shortcomings that comes to the election. He is the chief electoral officer of the country and can’t shirk his responsibility.”
Like Akuma and Keyamo, Director of the Muslims Rights concern (MURIC), Professor Ishaq Akintola, said there is need for security agencies to investigate and get to the roots of the matter so as not to compromise the forthcoming general elections.
“The electoral commission and the security agencies should probe the matter thoroughly and ensure that they get those behind the cloning. We have to ensure that the act does not in any away affect the 2019 general elections,” Akintola said.
PDP, ADP charges INEC
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Democratic Party (ADP) also expressed concern and tasked the Federal Government to get to the root.
In statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP challenged INEC to offer tangible explanation to Nigerians on the development.
The opposition party, while calling for a thorough investigation, said concerted effort must be made to prevent the voter cards and other sensitive electoral materials from possible cloning.
“The PDP’s position is against the backdrop of apprehensions being expressed by Nigerians regarding possible insider compromises in INEC, particularly ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“The PDP is seriously uncomfortable with the attempts by INEC to hurriedly wave off this very grave international embarrassment that goes to the heart of credible electioneering in our country.
“We also urge Nigerians to continue to be at alert, especially as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is
bent on using any means to compromise the election and subvert the will of the people in the coming elections,” the party stated.
National Chairman of ADP, Alhaji Yabagi Yusuf Sani told INEC to ascertain the level of involvement of some of its staff.
He said it would be difficult to clone the PVCs without insiders collaboration.
Commending the commission for speaking up, Sani said the electoral body should go beyond raising alarm and work out ways of stopping the planned cloning.
“INEC must look inward, it must find out if some of its staff are collaborating with some unscrupulous elements to carry out this criminal activity. That is the more realistic way of preventing it from happening,” the ADP boss recommended.
Sani said the revelation about the 2016 American election has shown that people can use internet to rig election .
“We should learn one or two lessons from what happened in the last US elections. We should not allow anybody to use it to rig 2019 election.”
Sani warned INEC of the grave implication of being docile or not active preemptively saying such attitude will hurt the election.
In spite of the apprehension, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Anayo Arinze is confident that the electoral body has the capacity to trace those behind the alleged cloning and sale of the PVCs. He noted that unless INEC gets to the root of the issue and address it decisively, there is no way the country could have free, fair and credible elections in 2019, as there would not be a level playing field.
“The issue of PVC cloning is an embarrassment. It vindicates our call for for a change of government. INEC should trace the source of the cloning. They have the capacity to do that. If they cannot do it, there is no way the election will be free and fair as some people will go into the election with an advantage.
“They must get do the root and fish out the culprit for 2019 to be credible.”