Card Reader Machine & Our Electoral Process: Failure to Legitimize it through Amendment of the Electoral Act – Any Legal Ground for its use? [A Must Read]

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A look at the Quotes from the book of a jurist: Electronic Evidence (2018) has this to say on the position of the law with regard to the use of Card Reader by INEC:

“One of the innovations of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria was the introduction of the use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR) technology by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It’s existence is rooted in paragraph 13 of the Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the of Conduct of 2015 General Election…The basic idea of introducing the card reader technology in Nigeria was to ensure credible, transparent free and fair elections. It is believed that the use of card reader machines would prevent impersonation, over-voting, multiple voting, stuffing of ballot boxes with thum-printed ballot papers, underaged voting, snatching of ballot boxes and other electoral vices that were common occurrences in previous elections.


In the words of Ogbuinya, JCA., ^…it is a nascent procedure injected into our fledgling electoral system to ensure credible and transparent election. Specifically, it is aimed to concretise our fragile process of accreditation – the keystone of any suffrage”


_The jurist asked some pertinent questions:_

“One paramount question that may be asked here is: what is the legal basis of the use of card readers under the Nigerian electoral process? Put in another way, upon which law is the use of card readers predicated? What is the constitutional or legal substratum of the application?


_His answer_

Section 49 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) makes no mention of the use of card reader technology as part of accreditation processes. In a language adorned with metaphoric astuteness, Ogbuinya, JCA, in _APC v. Agbaje & Ors_, pronounced that, ” the extant Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, which predates the concept, is not its parent or progenitor.”


_The jurist remarks, in his book thus:_

“I suppose this pronouncement is weighty enough to call for legislative intervention. The use of card reader technology in the current electoral dispensation in Nigeria is crucial. It, therefore, requires a legislative authority and legitimacy beyond INEC election guidelines. The Electoral Act ought to be amended to take the legitimacy of the use of card readers beyond any shadow of doubt”


_After considering many Supreme Court cases on the subject, (Shinkafi & Anor. v. Yari & 2Ors; Nyesom v. Peterside & Ors ; Okereke v. Umani & 2Ors, amongst others; the Jurist concluded:_

It is now crystal clear, from the authoritative pronouncements of Their Lordships at the apex court, that the supremacy of the voter’s register over card reader machines has been duly established within the current legal framework in Nigeria. The decisions of the Supreme Court in the cases cited above are of profound societal importance that will surely affect the policy of the government on the use of card readers in future elections. The form this will take is being awaited. Meanwhile, all controversies surrounding the status of card readers can be said to have been settled, subject to any future amendment of the Electoral Act.”

See: Alaba Omolaye Ajileye
_Electronic Evidence_ (2018)
Chapter Twenty_one.
Pp. 347-358


_Regrettably, the Electoral Act is yet to be amended_

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