Politicians are trying to undermine the electoral process and the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has alleged.

The commission also decried the activities of those hacking into its operation.

Since 2015, the electoral umpire said yesterday, hackers have been trying to get into its system. It noted that the hackers have so far been kept out.

Two INEC officials – Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in charge of Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini and ICT Director, Chidi Nwafor, dropped the hints during a stakeholders’ roundtable on electoral technology organised by Yiaga Africa.

Igini said: “The problem we are having in this country has to do with people who are out to undermine it.

“As an insider, who have larger and far more objective view as what we are doing as a Commission, I want to say very clearly that the problem we are having in this country has been less emphasis on that and has to do with people who are out to undermine the electoral process in the country that everything you put together you must look at what is called the human agency.

“The Card Reader does not play, is that really a problem. We introduced Card Reader and to ensure inclusivity that the name of somebody in the register and to get the Card Reader confirmed we used the Incident Form, but the Incident Form was abused.

“All cost of election in Nigeria is on account of people who are out to manipulate the process. When the Commission plans for a long term the politicians are out there to undermine what we are doing.

“Like we are planning now to have the BVAS out there and they are trying to undermine that process. You put in place something for the interest of the nation there are people out to undermine the process, and we do nothing with them or make effort to arraign them in court.

“They went as far as using the elite to undermine the process, and the Commission has convicted one, in two days’ time, another one will be arraigned.

Nwafor said: “Hackers have been trying to get into our system. I can tell you that in all the elections, from 2015 to 2019. I know it will happen in 2023 but God has been with us.”

At the roundtable, President of Nigeria Computer Society, Prof Adesina Sodiya, backed the use of electronic voting, saying the country was ripe enough to adopt the technology.

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Sen Ajibola Bashiru, disagreed, saying the infrastructure to cover every corner of the country during election was not available.

The Osun Central senator said the country was not ready to adopt electronic voting system for its elections.

He argued that some communities in his state, are without GSM network.

Prof Sodiya said: “Nigeria is ripe for e voting system. What we need to do is how improve the electronic voting system. That we have started electonic transmission of results is a good thing for us as a country.

“INEC management is looking at improving the process. Electronic voting (e-voting) will solve the problem of insecurity, privacy and others. The society is ready to support INEC in e-voting.

“We are interested in IT adoption in this country so that we move forward. We are progressing in the right direction from Card Reader to BVAS.

“Introducing technology in our processes, activities but should address current challenges we are facing in our nation.

“If you are having an election and you are having total vote at about 10 per cent of legitimate voters in that state I don’t think you will say you have passed in that election.

“Nigeria is rife for e-voting. Majority of our people who want to queue under the sun but if they know you have a strong e-voting system to cast their vote from the comfort of their home they would embrace it. What we are looking at is the implementation of E-voting system.”

Bashiru said: “I beg to disagree with the President of the Nigeria Computer Society that Nigeria is ripe for e-voting, and I say this with all sense of responsibility.

“As a grassroots and practical politician, I have moved around; yes, it is easier for us who live in municipality of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja to talk about digital coverage.

“There are other places you visit and you see the problem of infrastructure. There is still network problem in most parts of the rural areas.

“Apart from the issue of coverage,  I can tell you in Osun Central that there are certain wards and certain polling units that you cannot even get any of the existing networks even in terms of voice or 2G. That is not a data from NCC but practical knowledge.

“We need to not see this as a matter that is for only areas where advancement has been to in respect of elections.

“I agree that going forward there can be benefits of advancing technology particularly as it relates to voting but we cannot just say empirically we are at that level.

“We cannot insulate INEC of overrating their capability and potentials on what they can do. With the level of deployment and training it gives a lot of room for our concern whether for now we can deploy the Card Reader.”

Yiaga Africa’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo, commended the National Assembly for amending the Electoral Act in accordance with current challenges in the electoral process.

He said: “We are excited that the national assembly has deemed it fit that at this point in time our electoral law should respond to prevailing realities in the electoral process and as watchers and observers and participants in the political and electoral reform process we note the amendments to confer legalities on electronic transmission of result as the leverage granted to INEC to deploy technology for elections.

“Technologies are great for elections, technologies enhance citizens’ participation, electoral transparency but technology can undermine the integrity of elections, can also limit the participation of citizens in the electoral process”