VERDICT: False and Misleading
CLAIM: On 28 of November 2019, various media outlets published stories with the claim that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the Smart Card Readers useless in the elections. The Daily Post and National Pivot led the media organization, which was shared by other online platforms with the headline ‘’INEC gives real reasons Smart Card Readers are no longer useful.’’ The statement was credited to INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye.
Following on the report, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) issued a statement in which it alleged that the Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship Elections were rigged going by INEC’s admission of the uselessness of the Smart Card Readers. Several media platforms published various versions of the story including, The Nation, Within Nigeria, Vanguard and others.
FACT: CDD can categorically state that Barrister Okoye was quoted out of context as the National Commissioner did not say the Smart Card Reader is no longer useful in the elections. The INEC national spokesperson was a special guest at the meeting organized by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR) on Tuesday, November 17, 2019 to review the outcome of the Bayelsa and Kogi state election held on November 16, 2019.
CDD, being a member of the NCSSR was represented at the meeting, where the National Commissioner was wrongly quoted when he responded to a question from participant in the area that addressed the the use of Smart Card Reader in the election. The Honorable National Commissioner, Festus Okoye among others raised concerns about the growing trend of politicians using the Constitutionality of card readers to perpetrate electoral fraud and urged the meeting to help find a solution to the problem.
“So, rather than use the smart card reader, they just ignore it because ultimately they know that when they go to the court what it will be saying is that if you want to prove over-voting, we want to see INEC register or result sheet and not the smart card readers.”
Okoye said if the issue was not addressed, the Smart Card Reader would not serve the purpose to enhance the electoral process for which it was introduced. To further stressed the point, Barrister Okoye said “My understanding of the whole issue of electoral reform is that electoral system alone cannot solve the problem of elections in the country without our political elite,”
CDD Fact-checkers also contacted Barrister Okoye who sent in a written response. In the statement sent to CDD and signed by the National Commissioner, the Commission said it will continue to use the card readers in all elections in accordance to section 49(1 and 2) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and Clause Paragraph 10(a) of INEC Regulation and Guidelines for the conduct of elections, a person intending to vote with the voters card shall be verified to be the same person on the register voters by use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR)
CONCLUSION: Without any doubt the Smart Card Reader or any other electronic device, if constitutionally backed up will enhance the integrity of the country’s electoral landscape. It is important that all electoral stakeholders support the use of the SCR. Therefore, INEC has not jettisoned the use of card readers and it has not become useless. Media organizations should be wary of the threat disinformation and misinformation pose to our democracy.