From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to guide its Liberia counterpart on the use of technology to enhance the credibility and transparency of elections.
INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu made the promise in his address when the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of the Republic of Liberia, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, led a delegation to understudy Nigeria electoral system.
Mahmood also expressed happiness over the decision of the Liberia electoral commission to move away from analogue to technology in the conduct of elections.
‘I wish to assure you that we will continue to strengthen the long-standing partnership with Liberia in the spirit of peer support. You may recall that twice in the last three years, our technical staff worked with your Commission on the register of voters. The initial assistance facilitated the conclusion of your 2017 General Election.
‘Again, our staff returned to Liberia for the same reason ahead of the mid-term Senatorial election and a constitutional referendum held in December last year. Based on the lessons learnt from both exercises, our technical staff recommended that Liberia should introduce the biometric registration of voters.
‘I am glad to note that you have decided to move away from the manual register by conducting a pilot biometric voter registration as early as November this year. It is also gratifying that you have chosen to under-study Nigeria’s processes in detail, particularly the choice of biometric technology ahead of your next General Election which, like Nigeria, holds in 2023.
‘The truth is that nations are increasingly moving away from the manual processes by deploying more technology to further guarantee electoral credibility. In Nigeria, we are convinced that the use of appropriate technology is one of the best guarantees for the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.
‘I wish to commend you for the bold step you have taken in this regard. As requested, we will share our experience with you to enable you to make an informed decision for Liberia. In our interactions over the next two days, we will demonstrate to you and your team the processes for both the online and physical registration, the equipment used for the exercise, staff requirement and training, the procedure for cleaning up the field data, the compilation and printing of the register for elections and the system of storage and retrieval of information. We will also take you to some of the registration centres in Abuja for a practical and on-the-spot experience of the exercise,’ he said.
Speaking further, he noted: ‘Your visit is coming just three weeks after the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Malawi and his team visited us to share ideas and experience on Constituency delimitation. In your case, the subject matter of discussion is different but also cardinal to democratic elections. The focus of our interaction with you is on the biometric registration of voters.
‘In Nigeria, the current full biometric register of voters introduced in 2010 has been used for three general elections in 2011, 2015 and 2019. What the Commission has been doing since 2010 is to update the register under our Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise. The aim is to enable citizens who have attained 18 years or those who did not register in previous exercises to do so. On this note, I wish to say that you are visiting us at the most auspicious time.
‘Four weeks ago, the Commission commenced the CVR exercise with the introduction of the online pre-registration through a dedicated portal designed by the Commission. This has enabled eligible Nigerians to begin the process online before they come physically to complete their registration at the designated centres where their biometrics will be captured.
‘Over one million Nigerians pre-registered online in just four weeks. For those unable to commence the process online, dedicated centres have been established nationwide for in-person or physical registration which commenced on Monday this week. The two methods will continue simultaneously for the next one year before the exercise is suspended to enable the Commission to update the register in readiness for our 2023 General Election.’