SPEECH BY DR. OGBONNAYA ONU, HONOURABLE MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, DURING HIS VISIT TO NATIONAL AGENCY FOR SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INFRASTRUCTURE (NASENI) HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA TO INSPECT NASENI ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINE ON TUESDAY, JUNE 6, 2017

Protocol:

I am very happy to be visiting NASENI again. I recall when last I was here, I was impressed with the work that is going on in NASENI. The capacity which we are building in NASENI to do reverse engineering is very important to us. We spend a lot of money every year importing equipment in ships into the country and this is not helpful to our economy. We are losing a lot of jobs. We have few Engineers and Scientists in Nigeria and yet we can’t find jobs for them. This is no longer acceptable. We must find jobs for our Engineers and Scientists, indeed for all Nigerians who want to work. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is committed to making sure that not only will this economy be revived, but the economy will grow and we will be in a position to find jobs for our people. NASENI is playing an important role and will play even a more important role in future to make sure that we are able to produce many of the machines and equipment that we currently import into the country.

However, my visit today is very special and also unique. I recall over four months ago, in January of this year at the Headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, NASENI again was able to show Nigerians that we are gradually coming of age; that many of the technical problems, many of the genealogical problems that we have in our country, that we have the capacity to solve these problems and by doing so we will be in a position not only to create jobs, but also to create wealth for our country. There is nothing as good as self-reliance.

On the 30th of January this year, NASENI showed us the plan they had for Electronic Voting in the country. They made a number of demonstrations and this was watched by many of our very intelligent Journalists who reported this extensively in the country. I was not satisfied with all I saw, even though I was impressed with the work they had done. I requested that we must ensure that finishing touches are put to make sure that we deliver an Electronic Voting Machine that is powered through solar energy and that will have the capacity to ensure that the data is protected in a way that nobody can easily go in and then distort the voting.

Today, I am very happy with what I have seen: First, that we can do instant registration. By that, it means that you get registered and your permanent card will be issued to you within five minutes. I think this is very impressive and I know that NASENI will not rest until we reduce the five minutes to one minute; as you are registering the card is coming out at the other end. It is very important, this is the essence of research; you will never be satisfied until you get the very best. We are impressed with what we have seen, but we want more.

I voted and as I was voting, the result was being collated. This is going to help us. I did vote for five different elections and I believe that we can increase that number to seven, so that all elections in Nigeria, just as in most developed countries of the world can be conducted in the same day. This will be very helpful in improving on the turn out because democracy is about participation. If we can do all elections on the same day, it means if somebody is not interested in who becomes a Senator, the person may be interested in who becomes a member in the House of Representatives, or perhaps even President. So this will help us to get more Nigerians to come out to vote, to participate and to exercise their civic responsibility. As a citizen, it is a duty to participate in selecting those who govern you. If we don’t do that, then the essence of democracy being of the people will be lost. Also today, it was showed clearly that multiple voting can no longer be acceptable and can no longer even take place because of technology, because the attempt for me to vote again was rejected; just as if you are loading cards into your phone, once you have used that card and you put it in again the phone will remind you that you have used this card.

Many of the things that make our elections not to be the way we want it; to be truly free and fair, many of those challenges can be solved using technology. And we are telling our Nation, Nigerians that many of the problems we have had over the years, since independence, even since Nigeria became a Nation that remained intractable, that we should not give up because they can be solved and by deploying science and technology, we will be in a position to solve many of the problems that in the past appeared to be intractable.

Again, we want our results to reflect the true wish of Nigerians and there is no way you can do it if you don’t use technology. Because our courts are filled with petitions showing that the results at the polling units in many cases or in some cases, are not exactly the same with the ones used at the collation centres. And it is because we allow time and we allow a lot of human interaction, but the technology will eliminate all that and we can have results in real time; as you are voting, the result is showing, and that way, it will not be possible for any form of distortion to take place. So that anyone who is declared to have won an election must be somebody who won out of the will of the people.

Also in the past, we had instances of people snatching ballot boxes. This e-voting device has no provision of ballot paper, not to talk of ballot box. So this is really a system that is going to provide solution to many of the problems that we have had and I really want to thank all those who had worked so hard, starting from our facility in Awka. I remember when I saw this, I told them I was interested and I wanted it developed quickly and developed in a way that will give pride and honour to our country. And I am so happy that this has been done. So all those who have worked both at the Headquarters here and at Awka, I commend you and I commend the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NASENI.

I thank you once more NASENI for this contribution that you’ve made. We still will watch very closely to know if there are areas that require further fine tuning. Don’t worry, no device made by man is perfect, but one good thing with innovation is that you continue to improve on what you have.

We are very impressed with what is before us, and we are going to present this to Nigerians and we are going to take this to INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission). To show INEC that this can be done and possibly, we may go to the National Assembly and also the Federal Executive Council if it is necessary.

The starting point is INEC. INEC should know that this is a major contribution to make sure that elections are free and fair.

I thank you so much.



Transcribed by Nutsu Jojo Cyril


Photos by Obasi Nwite Obini



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