By Joel Popoola
Amid all the heartbreak and hardship, it is hard to imagine any good at all coming out of the COVID-19 crisis – but around the world the pandemic is forcing governments to finally move on from out-dated political practices and do democracy differently.
In the United Kingdom, we have seen the national government holding press conferences, public hearings, parliamentary debates, committees and even votes via video link.
Russia is said to be actively considering online voting.
Nigeria is no different.
The Independent National Electoral Commission this week announced that it intends to “pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines at the earliest possible time… (and) work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.”
This development would probably not have happened where it not for INEC having to design socially-distanced elections to keep officials and voters safe in the time of the cornonavirus.
Necessity is the mother of invention. On this occasion it might also be the midwife of a more effective democracy for Nigeria.
As the head of a campaign to make Nigeria Africa’s first truly digital democracy, I believe that this is a huge step forward for improving the credibility of elections in the eyes of Nigerian voters.
Nigeria has the worst voter turnout in West Africa – with almost half the number of voters turning up to vote in last year’s presidential election than did in Ghana’s most recent contest.
And things are getting worse. The turnout in the last Nigerian General Election was just 35% – all-but half the 69% it was in 2003.
Why, Well, as one international commentator put it: “The average Nigerian voter does not believe her vote will count. She has been scarred by years of violence, rigging, and predictability. The numbers reflect this”.
Electronic voting can be the first step towards reversing that decline.
Using electronic voting machines, Nigerian voters can have much more confidence that the vote really was cast for their candidate they intended to vote for – or has been counted at all. Ballot-stuffing could also become a thing of the past under a truly transparent system where every vote can be electronically accounted for.
As for predictability, it is no secret that this is another reason why Nigerians can be so reluctant to vote. As the INEC policy statement itself points out, only 10 per cent of all bye-elections since 2015 led to a change in result. In an election where the result is a forgone conclusion, many Nigerians see simply no point in voting – even if their favoured candidate is the one guaranteed to win!
Electronic voting was trialled in Kaduna state in 2018 and the results were impressive.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai was praised for his state’s efforts to promote transparency and electoral integrity, voters even found the process of voting quicker and faster – which may also encourage them to vote (nobody wants to queue!)
Even more strikingly four Kaduna elections were won by the opposition rather than the incumbents. People knew their vote would have an impact. So they voted.
Electronic voting could be a crucial first step in restoring Nigerian’s trust in the democratic process. And trust can be a scare commodity in Nigerian politics.
That is the thought behind the Digital Democracy campaign I head. We created the free Rate Your Leader app to use smartphone technology to allow elected officials to interact directly with confirmed voters in the divisions they serve.
This way politicians and people can engage person-to-person, understanding each other’s needs and positions. And voters can even rate their politicians for their transparency and accessibility.
And believe me, all it can take sometimes to build trust is person-to-person contact.
I remember one local politician telling me about how a voter rang him up in fury to complain that the local government was investing money instead of spending it on local services.
The politician just pointed out that no government spends all of its cash the same day it gets it. When it knows it has money it doesn’t have to spend for several months it puts it in a savings account and uses the interest to pay for more local services. The voter actually went away delighted that his local government was being so savvy with its money!
Democracy is digital. More Nigerians own a smartphone than vote. So why stop there? Could Nigeria become one of the first nations on Earth to embrace allowing voters to actually vote from home?
Realistically, not enough Nigerians have reliable enough broadband to make this possible – yet.
But if electronic voting is a sensible first step, innovations like this should be our long-term aspiration.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app.
Lagos Driver Steals Boss’ Car, Arrested in Benin
By Eric Elezuo
The Lagos State Police Command has reported the arrest of one Ibeh George Udoka, for driving away his principal’s Toyota car to Imo State for sale.
A statement by the Command’s Public Relations Office, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, revealed that the suspect made away with the car when his boss, one Mrs Akinola Ibironke, asked him to deliver it to her machanic. The driver left with the car, and was not since ever since
“On 4th May, 2021, at about 1pm, one Mrs Akinola Ibironke, f, came to Idimu Police Division and reported that her driver by name Ibeh George Udoka, m, whom she handed her Toyota Corola vehicle, with Registration No. ABC 801 FU, to deliver to her mechanic for repairs, on 3rd May, 2021, was not seen and ever since then his phone number had been switched off,” Adejobi said.
He explained further that owing to the diligent efforts of the men of the Idimu Division, the driver was intercepted in Benin and arrested.
“The Police operatives attached to Idimu Division of the Lagos State Police Command swung into action and relayed repeated radio messages to all police formations across the country for possible recovery of the car. Due to the command’s continuous tracking of the driver, the Lagos Police operatives alerted the policemen in Edo State, on 6th May, 2021 and the driver was intercepted with the car in Benin City, on his way to Imo state.
“In response to the call from Edo State Command and in compliance with the directive of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, the police operatives from the Lagos State Police Command proceeded to Edo State Command for the recovery and apprehension of the suspect,” the statement read.
Adejobi also said that the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu “has applauded the efforts and synergy between the two Police Commands, Lagos and Edo, in recovering and apprehending the car and the suspect respectively.”
A thorough investigation of the matter towards bringing the suspect to book has been ordered by the Commissioner.
NDLEA Merges Tactical Teams, Reshuffles Directors
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has carried out a reshuffle of its directors, and renamed its special weapons and tactics team (SWAT).
Buba Marwa, NDLEA chairman, announced the development at a meeting with directors in Abuja.
According to a statement issued on Tuesday by Femi Babafemi, NDLEA spokesperson, all the tactical teams have been merged under one unit — ‘Strike Force’.
“The reshuffling was announced by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Brig. General Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd), during a meeting with directors at the Agency’s headquarters in Abuja on Monday, 10th May 2021. He said the new movement was to propel the Agency to greater achievements,” the statement read.
“In the new changes which take effect from Tuesday, 11th May, 2021, the former director of administration and establishment, Ezekiel Epeso, becomes the director, technical services; the former head of internal affairs, Sani Ibrahim Sani, becomes the new director of administration and establishment; while Pius Gamde, an assistant director, legal services, is now director, internal affairs/provost marshal of the Agency.
“The former director of technical services, Ahmed Ninigi, has now been moved to a newly created directorate as commander, strike force/director, special duties.
“According to Gen. Marwa, the various tactical and SWAT teams across the commands have been merged and renamed strike force, which will now function under the new directorate headed by Ninigi.”
Speaking on the development, Marwa added that the decision was taken to improve on efforts to address drug trafficking in the country.
“What we are doing now is to reposition the NDLEA to be able to effectively take on the drug cartels and syndicates operating in any part of the country,” he said.
Delta Police Rescue Kidnap Victim, Recover Vehicles, Weapons, Arrest Suspects
In its efforts to rid the state of crimes and criminal elements, the Delta State Police Command has recorded massive landmarks to checkmate the activities of criminals.
According to a statement by the Command’s PPRO, DSP Edafe Bright, in a space of one week, a kidnap victim was rescued just as there were interceptions of drug and pipeline related crimes.
Bright reiterated the state’s Commissioner of Police warning to criminals to turn a new leaf or vacate the state as there is no hiding place for crime and criminal elements in the state.
Read the statement in details:
1.On the 8/5/2021 at about 2000hrs, information got to the divisional police officer Sapele Division CSP Harrison Nwabuisi that one Jeffrey Emekume ‘m’ 27yrs was kidnapped along Eku Abraka road Eku with his Lexus Jeep sky blue with Reg. No. RSH 716 AX makes a U-turn head to Sapele road. The DPO Sapele swiftly mobilized and led Crack Teams into the bush, The hoodlum who could not withstand the relentless effort of the police abandon the victim and fled. The kidnapped victim was rescued and the Lexus Jeep was recovered. Effort is ongoing to track and arrest the fleeing suspects.
2.On the 9/5/2021 at about 1820hrs, based on intelligent gathered by the divisional police officer ‘A’ division Warri CSP T.Y. MAHMUD, mobilized Rapid Response Team and raided a black spot at Hausa Quarters where one Aliyu Adamu ‘m’ 20yrs was arrested with two hundred and thirty seven wraps of weed suspected to be Indian hemp. Suspect allegedly confessed to be a major dealer in Indian Hemp. Investigation is ongoing.
3.On the 7/5/2021 at about 2240hrs, ‘B’ division warri Patrol team while on patrol around Okumagba Estate sighted a tricycle of two occupants, immediately they sighted the Police team they put off the headlight of the tricycle. As the Police moved closer to the tricycle it was observed that the occupants had abandon the tricycle and ran away possibly to a nearby bush. When search was conducted on the tricycle a locally made gun and live cartridge was recovered while the tricycle with Reg. No. EHR 247 QF was impounded. The bush was comb with a view to arresting the fleeing hoodlum. Meanwhile continuous manhunt is on to arrest and bring them to book.
4.On the 10/5/2021 at about 1030hrs, information was received that mob were attacking three (3) kidnapping suspects who attempted to kidnap a victim whose identity was disclosed at Oghara Junction.
Consequently, The divisional police officer Oghara division mobilized patrol teams and vigilante teams to the scene. And rescued the Three suspects which includes one Onome Efetobore ‘m’ a notorious criminal that has been in a police wanted list, Collins (surname unknown) also a known notorious kidnapper and armed robber who escaped from Benin correctional facility during EndSARS protest and one Glory Reuben ‘m’ also a notorious criminal. They were seriously beaten, rushed to the hospital by the police where they were later confirmed dead at General Hospital Oghara. Exhibits recovered include a locally made pistol and three (3) live cartridges.
The Commissioner of Police advised members of the public to work with the police, and and stay away from jungle justice.
5.On the 8/5/2021 at about 1745hrs, Anti-Crime Patrol of ‘A’ Division Warri while on routine patrol intercepted lorry with Reg. No. BDG 358 YA with five (5) suspects, on searching, the lorry was loaded with one hundred and seventy (170) pieces of 6inchs already cut to various sizes. The suspects are allegedly experts in the act of vandalizing Federal Government Pipeline at Ogulagha Dried Land.
The five occupants Lukeman Jimoh ‘m’ 40yrs, Shola Bimigo ‘m’, Yahaya Ikane ‘m’ 55yrs, Ebi Yeregha ‘m’ 41yrs and Lawal Aliyu ‘m’ 35yrs were arrested while the lorry with Reg. No. BDG 358 YA was impounded. Investigation is ongoing.