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February 3, 2011

Attahiru Jega Must Go!

I use this Dell Latitude E6400 laptop, not that this is a state-of-the-art laptop more than any other brand, the HP or even a Zinox. But this one is the series that comes with built-in finger print reader right next to the touch pad. The convenience is remarkable. Whenever I switch on the machine I do not have to remember a stupid password or even type one. I just swipe my thumb against the finger print reader  and “hello world!” my desktop is open. The authentication is precise and accurate every time and all the time. This is precisely very useful and handy in today’s world were you have to remember so many passwords and PIN numbers for almost every secure facility that is common with everyday living. From your cell phone PIN, to your emails and web site authentication etc. Many people have got several of each. On my  Dell latitude laptop, because of the convenience of the finger print reader I can safely trust that no one else can have access to  my personal computer without being authenticated by me. That is one less password to remember.

Digital finger print reading (and other biometric readers) is not a new development. The technology is well advanced and available readily in the public domain. Even the software and the software development kit (SDK) for extending the simple capabilities or functionalities of the laptop reader, like the Dell Latitude E6400, is available for free on the internet. Try Google that and see for yourself. That is why it is hilarious, painfully so , that Professor Attahiru Jega’s INEC has failed to effectively  deploy a simple solution that could be relied on for registering unique voters. It is no longer news that INEC has wasted billons of federal funds by conducting an exercise with so many loopholes. The news is, he has shown lack of understanding or he is an accomplice in this whole voter registration scheme. He must now toe the path of humility, resign and concede that he has failed the public.

It is on record that he has defended the current exercise several times before NASS and in the media. On one occasion he was quoted as saying that he will not be influenced, claiming independence to date. But this appears to be the exact opposite. First, he (Prof. Jega) knew, or did he not?, that the DDC machines’ database are not integrated, networked or the database coordinated in real terms. Without a real central database management model one voter biometric data can appear several times without being detected by the system. Even a simple Microsoft office Database or SQL Database would be enough to crunch the data collected, if deployed on a managed server. Yet he vouched for the process. The public demands an explanation for this from Prof. Jega. Who is he working for? The public or for some politician? Secondly, he (Prof. Jega) saw and was told (at least by the ACN) that voters are being moved by local politicians to several polling booths by local politicians to register and re-register. Yet he took no action. Why would someone agree to a post registration auditing of an automated registration process to “weed out duplicates”. That is simply a code for saying some politician will decide who should and who should not vote. Everyone knows this. It is not rocket science. Any post registration editing “or auditing” is a loophole. Nothing short of a real time proofing and cross-checking against a central database in the presence of the voter during registration to verify and register a unique voter will be acceptable. Professor Jega knows this. The verification exercise provided for in the Electoral Act must not be a verification of who is registered multiple times and deleting of names. It should be a verification of details of voters captured by voters to ensure that voter details are captured correctly. (Please use this , sign in is not required)

Nigeria Election 2011

The open ballot system that elected MKO Abiola was visibly free and fair for one reason. Everyone voted in real time and in an open queue. Votes were counted at the same time countrywide and independent monitoring was real and immediate. Those lessons we must incorporate into the new exercise. Professor Jega has breached the public trust by defending vehemently a system that he knows was flawed from the start, he must take the path of honour and resign. INEC must have more time to establish a Database Management System that will warehouse the voter biometrics they are collecting and make it an integrated nationally available database of registered voters. INEC must get it right this time and for all. We need an election umpire who knows his onions and who would take responsibility and deliver on INEC’s mandate without fear or favour. There are two things the voter registration must achieve. It must register genuine qualified voters once. Voters must be capable of voting at any booth globally (nationally or in any state were they live. There must never be the issue of “I cannot find my name on the voter register or “I forgot the booth where I registered, therefore I cannot find my name and cannot vote”. If this expenditure of public funds fails to achieve both of these goals, then, it is a waste of time and money. Are we ready for a free an fair election? I cannot bet on this.

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