The z-pad, a new innovation introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation of voters, using facial image, will no longer be used for the Saturday Edo State governorship election.
By Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
The Commission disclosed that the piece of technology, which was deployed in the Nasarawa State bye-election to test-run it’s functionality, had both hardware and software issues.
INEC National Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, while announcing the decision to drop the z-pad, noted that, “the atmosphere in Edo State ahead of the election this weekend is already charged”, adding that, “we cannot afford to complicate it further by introducing a new technology we are not yet fully satisfied with.
In his address at the Edo Governorship Election Stakeholders’ meeting in Benin, the Edo State capital, Yakubu, stated that, “perhaps the most critical of the recent innovations introduced by the Commission is the use of a tablet now popularly called the z-pad. It is a new innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader.
“Secondly, the camera on the tablet will be used to take a picture of the polling unit result (EC8A) and to upload same on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV). This will enable all those interested in viewing the results to do so in real time. The Commission deployed the z-pad in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election in Nasarawa State on 8th August 2020. It was a test-run intended to assess the functionality of the technology before its deployment in major elections. While the capture and upload of polling unit level result went on smoothly, the facial authentication did not.
“Without going into the technical details, let me say that the Commission encountered hardware and software issues which needed to be fixed”.
He explained further that, “our ICT Department worked on the new device and made a presentation to the Commission which decided that the system needs to be robust enough before it can be deployed in a major election.
“Unlike the 44 polling units of the Nasarawa Central State Constituency, the Edo Governorship election involves 2,627 polling units. The Commission decided that since this technology is work in progress, we should carry out a further test-run in some of the smaller constituencies during the bye-elections scheduled for 31st October 2020 and thereafter engage with stakeholders before it can be deployed in major elections”.
However, the uploading of polling unit level results in the election on Saturday will proceed as planned, INEC stated.
Meanwhile the Commission reassured the Edo electorate that their votes will count in the emergence of the winner of the September 19.
According to the INEC Chair, “our ultimate objective is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Edo State is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election.
“The Commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures. Nothing more.”
He stated further that “the Commission is also aware of the concern expressed in some quarters about the neutrality of our staff, in particular the ad hoc staff engaged for election duty. We have heard allegations that some ad hoc staff were recruited in such a manner as to compromise the election.
“In response, the Commission deployed two National Commissioners who reviewed the process for strict compliance with the guidelines for such recruitment. I want to assure you that all categories of ad hoc staff have been vetted. The integrity of the process will not be compromised and there will be no partisan infiltration.
“As the eligible voters in Edo State go to the polls on Saturday, I wish to renew my appeal to all political parties, candidates and their supporters for peaceful conduct. Your votes will count. Polling unit level results will be uploaded for public view. However, this will not happen where the process is disrupted by violence or malpractices.
“The Commission is determined that no one will benefit from impunity or rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote-buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results.
“The people of Edo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment. We have been assured by the security agencies that thugs and their sponsors will not have the freedom to move around freely to disrupt the election or collation of results”.