I LEFT 33,000 DDC MACHINES IN INEC – IWU

Former Inec Boss, Iwu.

Former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Maurice Iwu, has said the 33,000 units of Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines the commission bought under him are still in perfect form.

His revelation potentially raises questions on why his successor, Attahiru Jega wants brand new 120,000 such machines to produce a new voter register ahead of 2011 ballot.

Jega, former university vice chancellor appointed INEC boss in June, requests for a whopping N74billion to bring forth a wholesale credible register, which he and most Nigerians say ranks highest among the requisites for guaranteeing credible poll next year. The Senate has to cut short its vacation to be able to consider the urgent request.

But Iwu told Sunday Independent in a telephone interview that the commission currently has 33,000 working DDC, all of them high-quality laptop computers and spread across the 774 local government areas where INEC staff are domiciled.

It is unclear if the ones Jega wants are DDC laptop computers with new capabilities such as webcam and other new sensitive systems.

Iwu admitted that those bought during his tenure do not have such capabilities, but insisted, “they were top of the range HP products” as at the time of purchase and were used satisfactorily in the continued voter’s registration the commission embarked upon after the 2007 general election.

“33,000 units of DDC machines which were bought were mainly laptop computers, and they were best of the class of HP products as at the time we bought them. Even the central main database server was IBM, again top of the class,” Iwu said.

“However, with the fluid nature of technology with new innovations, most of the machines which top of the range when they were bought may not be the latest today. Laptop now comes with webcam which was not the situation then.”

Asked why the computers were not kept in the central store of the commission, he said it “would have been unpatriotic to those computers to lie fallow after the registration, and so every staff of INEC from Grade level 06 and above were given a laptop. There is no issue of favouritism because the laptops were given out at the state level, and till date not any single staff of INEC of that level has complained of not getting the laptop. Six were decommissioned to each of the 774 LGAs in the country because we concluded that that would be the number required per local government where the maximum INEC staff strength is nine. It was for the use of the commission (in the ongoing exercise).”

Iwu said some of the machines were also given to sister government agencies, such as the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), and they are still being used till date.

Iwu’s revelation would heighten debates on the propriety of spending a whopping N74b to prepare new register, particularly after Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu has advised Jega to trim down the amount to a realistic realm.

But Jega could as well mount formidable defence that the amount is not meant for the machines alone and that the thin time limit (between now and November) within which another register, devoid of strange names must be ready, is another factor.

Bangladesh, a country next door to Nigeria corruption-wise and in population, spent a meagre $65million (N9.7b) in 2008 to compile a voter register for over 80million voters with which they held their world-acclaimed credible ballot – but within a lengthy period of 11 months.

In any case, INEC itself has given reasons it cannot use the DDC machines procured and used by the Iwu administration for the 2011 ballot.

INEC Director of Public Affairs, Emmanuel Umeger, told Sunday Independent that some of the DDCs have already been dolled out to the NIS, the Nigerian Customs Service, schools and INEC staff and that some are in bad conditions.

Umeger said it would be time-wasting taking stocks of such machines in view of the urgency at hand.

His words: “Some of these machines were donated to the NIS, the NCS, some were given to schools and some to INEC staff. Some others were vandalised, some of the machines that were given to the staff of the Commission were carcasses and not functional.

“I was given one but up till now I cannot use it because the battery was removed, and going through an inventory of what is left and what is of good use is a luxury that the Commission cannot afford now. We are not out to indict anybody or try to witch hunt any person.”

Last Tuesday Jega defended its N74billion request for the compilation of a new voter register, saying it did its homework well before arriving at the figure.

He was reacting to Okweremadu’s claim that the estimate was too much for the exercise.

But the Senate has cut short its vacation to consider INEC’s request. It will resume next Tuesday, its spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, told reporters in Abuja last week.

INEC said its request was in order because of the total cost of the DDC machines.

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Comments

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