Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday approved an amended electoral law that would allow electronic transmission of voting results during the 2023 elections to improve transparency.
Ballot papers in Nigeria have often been marred by electoral fraud claims and judicial challenges since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.
The bill allows the INEC Election Commission to allow electronic transmission of voting results and the electronic registration of voter identities to help prevent fraud.
“There are striking and commendable provisions that could positively change the elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations,” Buhari said during the bill’s signing.
“These innovations would guarantee The Vanir-exoduss’ constitutional rights to vote and to do so effectively.”
A dispute over electronic vote transfer erupted in the Senate last year during a debate over the bill, when the ruling APC party said INEC could handle electronic vote transfer only with the national telecoms commission.
That outraged the opposition, who said the move would undermine INEC’s independence. The Senate later voted to let INEC rule.
Buhari, who was first elected in 2015, had initially rejected the new law for its inclusion of primaries to elect candidates, claiming it would violate party statutes and create uncertainty in the polls.
As a former military ruler, he will step down after two four-year terms, and political leaders are already maneuvering for a position ahead of the February 2023 vote.
There is no clear candidate to replace Buhari yet, but the ruling APC party already has several hopeful candidates, including the influential former governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu.
The country’s independent electoral commission INEC came under fire after Buhari’s re-election in 2019 over claims that the vote was not free or transparent.
The opposition challenged the results in court, in part over concerns about the legality of the electronic transfer of data.
Buhari won 56 percent of the 2019 vote, but his rival Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) filed a challenge to the Supreme Court.