By NBF News

Again, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reported the loss of some of its Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines from the Central Store of its Lagos office.

This time, 1,388 of the machines out of the 9,450 allocated to the state for the voter registration exercise early this year were reported missing. INEC also said that its computer batteries and internal hard disks used for the voter registration were equally stolen.

Before the latest incident, INEC had, in January this year, lost some DDC machines at the cargo section of the Murtala Muhammed Airport.

We recall also that while the scramble for the machines was going on in the country in the early days of their acquisition, a good number of them were allegedly found in the private residence of a prominent Ibadan politician without the commission being able to explain how the machines got there in the first place.

Some of the machines were also said to have been found in a bush somewhere in Anambra State.

Developments such as these are clearly distressing. It is strange that INEC has continued to face the embarrassment of the stealing or unlawful possession of these machines by unscrupulous elements.

The DDC machines, going by the facts presented to Nigerians, are supposed to bring about the much needed innovations that will reduce electoral malpractices to the barest minimum. But these machines could not be deployed to full use during the last general elections because the technical know-how on the part of its operators was still very low. Nonetheless, the machines are supposed to be very invaluable in the operations of the commission. This being the case, our expectation is that INEC should be more diligent in the storage of these machines. Regrettably, the casual manner in which these machines get into unauthorised hands places a question mark on the seriousness with which they are supposed to be handled.

The latest case of theft of the machines is particularly worrisome because of the number involved. That such a large number of machines could be made away with suggests that there is a security lapse in the custody of the machines. Who are the security men and the INEC personnel that presided over the stealing of the machines? Why was it so convenient for them to make away with such number of machines without being apprehended?

No doubt, some connivance and compromise on the part of some INEC staff and the security personnel must have taken place for a theft of this magnitude to take place. The commission should investigate this incident thoroughly with a view to getting to the root of the matter.

Even though INEC has given assurances that the data gathered with the stolen machines are safe, we believe that it is dangerous for the commission to still rely on such information because it has become bastardized. The integrity of such data has become questionable as it is no longer exclusively at the disposal of INEC. The wise thing to do therefore is to invalidate them and go ahead to procure a new one. The continued retention of such data can give those intent on rigging the elections an opportunity to carry out their nefarious act. They can manipulate the names or images of the voters to achieve a predetermined objective. INEC has to ensure that it frustrates such a possibility.

Considering the sensitive nature of these machines, INEC should be more diligent in securing them. Meanwhile, it has to do all within its powers to ensure that those behind the theft are apprehended and brought to book. This will be a good way to restore confidence in the machines and in the operations of the commission.