Despite the Independent Nations Electoral Commission (INEC) repeatedly assuring the smart card reader will not pose a challenge at the elections this year, reports from parts of the country indicated the malfunctioning of the device caused delays and frustration for voters.
The card reader was introduced in the 2015 election. The device was part of the registration and authentication of duly registered voters – those who had Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) – and who ultimately participated on Election Day.
The card reader was promoted by INEC as an anti-electoral fraud device and was introduced to enhance the integrity of the voting process and dissuade multiple voting, as only duly accredited and verified PVC holders can vote.
The card readers are also configured to work for specific polling units. This means that PVCs could not be used in multiple polling units.
In some of the states, PREMIUM TIMES found that INEC officials and ad-hoc staff had issues with the usage of the card readers across the country.
In Polling Unit 006 at Kofar Kudu Primary School in Gezawa Local Government of Kano State, voting did not begin until 11:10 a.m as a result of smart card readers failure.
It was a similar experience at Polling Unit 033, Fagge Local Government of the state where voting could not start until 11:30 a.m.
Also, problems with card reader disrupted voting at 11:21 a.m at Polling Unit 011 in Shiyar Ajiya, Tambuwal/Shinfiri, in Tambuwal Local Government of Sokoto State.
The APO II who did not disclose his name said the problem started around 11 am.
At PU 006a in Ovoko(Umuolo Ward) Igbo Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State, the assistant APO II complained that the card reader could not identify some voters whose names are on the register.
Both the presiding officer and her assistant said they were confused whether to allow the affected voters to cast their votes or not.
According to the presiding officer, 1209 voters registered voters in the unit.
As at 11:48 a.m in Ipaku Maternity 1 and 2, Osisi Ward 8, Adavi Local Government of Kogi State, there was an issue of card reader failure in one of the voting points. INEC officials later replaced the device.
As at 11:55 am, at Igbariam Primary School I, Achara Layout West, Enugu South in Enugu State, there were also issues with the card reader.
Voters complained that the officers were slow in conducting their activities.
The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, expressed dissatisfaction with INEC over the malfunctioning of the card reader at Agasa Polling Unit 11 where the governor and his wife were registered to vote.
The polling officer on duty put a call across to the INEC office and was promised a replacement.
At this point, the governor was forced to retreat into his car to wait for the promised replacement.
Also, the presidential candidate of the Young Peoples Party (YPP), Kingsley Moghalu, decried the non-performance of card readers in his ward at Nnewi North Ward 2 in Anambra.
Mr Moghalu told journalists on Channels Television shortly after voting by 11.55 a.m that faulty card readers delayed voting in the area.
“I came out by 8 a.m to vote but the card readers were not functioning; so I went back to my house and came out by almost noon to vote. “
Premium times reported how the card readers also had technical hitches in many states in 2015.
These complications ranged from simple issues, such as the lack (or poor) understanding among INEC’s ad-hoc staff on the need to remove film covering from the screen of the device which facilitates better fingerprint decoding, to the outright malfunction or failure of the card readers themselves.
Of particular note was the failure of the some card readers to recognise President Goodluck Jonathan’s card, which was quite embarrassing for the incumbent leader.