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 Elections in Nigeria had often filled the air with apprehension and a high sense of trepidation. Stakes in elections are high. Under the zero-sum game which is in operation, winners take all and losers have nothing unlike the situation under proportional representation. In Nigeria, there are limited avenues by which individuals can benefit from states resources. By winning elections and getting recruited into the state sphere, an individual is assured of better life chances, so are close family members and ethno-religious constituencies. Elections are thus a matter of life and death. Electoral mal-practices are common. In 2011 but in the 2015 elections in particular, there was a marked shift in the electoral process. Those who had been used to thwarting the electoral process were checkmated by the use of election technology, more specifically, the introduction of electronic biometric authenticators. The introduction of election technology paved the way for a more credible and competitive elections in Nigeria.



Background to study

Election is the process of choosing a candidate for public office. Election is a critical component of any democratic society. As such, Nigeria‟s returned to democratic rule and engagement with the democratic process led to the conduct of its general elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. General elections are elections conducted in the federation at large for federal and state elective positions (The Electoral Institute, 2015).

The 2015 general election appears to be the most keenly contested in the history of elections in Nigeria because it was the first time about four major opposition parties came together to form a very strong party, All Progressive Congress (APC) in order to challenge the dominance of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the polity. Indeed, according to Omotola (2013: 172), the election became the only game in town, shaping and reshaping public discourse and political actions.

Prior to the 2015 general elections, a number of technologically based reforms (e.g. biometric Register of Voters, Advanced Fingerprints Identification System) were embarked upon by the new leadership (headed by Prof Attairu Jega) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the election management body empowered by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to organize, undertake and supervise all elections in Nigeria.

The more general use of biometric in African elections is on the rise. No fewer than 25 sub-Saharan African countries (e.g. Sierra-Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, Mali, Togo, Ghana etc.) have already held elections employing a biometric voter register (Piccolino, 2015). The Automated Fingerprint Identification System was used in the 2011 general elections as a digital register to eliminate doubles from the list, and was not capable or verifying the identity of voters at the polling stations (Piccolino, 2015).

These technologically based reforms by INEC were further taken to another height in the 2015 general elections with the use of the Permanent Voter‟s Card (PVC) and introduction of Smart Card Reader technology, a device used to scan the PVC in order to verify the identity of a voter in a polling booth. The smart card reader was one of the greatest innovations of biometric verification technology and controversial crucial aspect of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Somaliland etc had adopted the biometric verification technology.

Concerned about the massive electoral fraud witnessed in the past general elections in Nigeria, INEC deployment of the card reader in 2015 general elections was to ensure a credible, transparent, free and fair election in order to deepen Nigeria‟s electoral democracy. However, the used of the electronic device in the 2015 general elections generated debate among election stakeholders before, during and after the elections.


Election technology has become indispensable to the electoral process in most of Africa as it featured prominently in generating the voters’ roll by biometric means, the use of card readers in voters’ accreditation and authentication and in a few cases, electronic voting has been accomplished, a sort of end to end solution. Heavy deployment and dependence on election technology had been witnessed in Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Indeed, the idea of digital democracy is unfolding in Africa. Advocates of electoral reforms have consistently hinted on the need for a credible biometric register as a core infrastructure on which credible elections should rest [Ahmed, 2016]. The initial phobia for technology seems to be waning in the context of rising voters’ awareness and the desire to checkmate fraudulent election practices and thereby enhance election security. It is not surprising that these days, unrelenting agitations for democratic and electoral reforms majorly centre on the precise role of technology in resolving some of the basic election logjam and conundrum that had bedevilled Africa’s election administration for years. Both at the back end and front end of the electoral process, technology is increasingly being perceived as a necessity. But technology must not be perceived as a fix all phenomenon. Human agency has its own challenges which technology might not be able to address adequately.

To pose the question which this paper intends to address more pungently: has election technology made election outcomes to be more credible and less litigated today than in the pre-technology phase? Indeed, has election technology reduced instances of multiple voting or voting by proxy and indeed of the commission of electoral crimes such as snatching of election materials?

Though, there might still be some lingering concerns about the status of the voters’ register in some countries in Africa but, definitely, those of them that deployed technology in the production of voters’ roll have reduced the scale of complaints about the credibility of the voter roll by stakeholders. Biometric registers had been used in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria among many countries. Multiple registrations have been largely eliminated and voters’ identity card made available. There are diverse routes that had been trodden by African countries in the production of credible voters’ register and experiences differ. The point really, as Evrensel [2015] has shown, is that voting procedure has undergone tremendous reforms through technological revolution in the past twenty years in most of Africa.

However, in the deployment of technology as a means of resolving election conundrum, African election managers must be circumspect so that purely technical failure is not interpreted as expressions of plans to perpetrate election fraud. Mozaffar and Schedler [2015] have argued that ‘the interplay between political suspicion and technical incapacity’ may spark ardent disputes – preventing technical problems from contaminating an electoral process with corrosive suspicions is not an easy assignment. Of course, there are other challenges as to whether the deployment of technology on election days proceed as planned. If not, were there mitigating strategies or a plan B? A good election management body must anticipate challenges and thus be proactive so as not to trigger a conflagration in a country which may already be on the edge.


The broad objective in this research paper is to examine the extent to which technology such as biometric authentication has aided improvement in Nigeria’s electoral landscape. Specifically the study would:

1.     Highlight the Persistent Election Conundrum experienced in Nigeria

2.     Explore the Expected Interventions by Election Technology and biometric authentication

3.     Discuss Key Findings on the Adoption of Election Technology on lagos house of assembly election


In this regard the significance of study will be both on the theoretical levels and

Practical levels. Theoretically, this study seeks to highlight and widen scholarly perceptions of impact of election technology in election process,  Thus, the study will be a response to the intellectual challenges involved in enhancing an understanding of the unending but continually and changing new forms of elections processes.

More importantly, the study intends to critically examine the various efforts by Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to curb the problem of Election Conundrum.

Basically, this study will be of vital importance to scholars on political science and sociological researchers and reading public, and as such serve as a further take off point for future inquiry in the study under review.

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