2019 Election: Effect Of Henna On Card Reader Biometrics Fingerprint

Few weeks to the 2019 general elections, I have come across several messages on the social media discouraging women from decorating their hands with Henna dye to avoid card reader biometrics test failure. This is coming after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announces its decision to make the Card Reader biometrics mandatory. In a communique issued by the INEC boss “Prof. Mahmud” which reads

“For those talking about whether INEC would use card reader during the 2019 elections or not, I want to assure that INEC will deploy card reader in every polling unit in the country.

“This is an assurance from the commission, and we are ever ready to do that, although we are yet to configure the card readers to match every polling unit.”

In this write-up we will find answers to the following questions:

  • What is fingerprint?

  • What is Card Reader?

  • What is Henna?

  • Does Henna cause fingerprint biometrics test failure?

  • What can cause fingerprint biometrics test failure?

  • What should I do to my fingertips before Election Day?



They are unique patterns or marks present on human fingertips. Human has a total of 10 fingerprints. The 10 fingerprints differ with each other and also with the fingerprint of any other being dead or alive. I.e. No two fingerprints are identical. Every single fingerprint is unique throughout the world. Due to this unique features of the fingerprint, it was adopted as means of storing biometrics database as well identifications of individuals by many sectors such as Nigeria Immigration Service, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Communications Commission and many more.

Fingerprinting is also used in the field of forensics to detect and analyses evidence from a crime scene.


INEC Card Reader:

This is an electronic mobile device used by the independent National Electoral Commission for eligible voters accreditation process. The card reader is designed to read the validity of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) of a certain polling unit and can only work on Election Day.  After the PVC is authenticated as genuine by the card reader, the voter is asked to thumbprint on the card reader to determine if he/she owns the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) that was presented for accreditations.



(Also known by the Indians as Mehndi and Lalle/Qunshi by the Hausas) is a dye made from a henna tree. It exists in different colors with black and red being the most popular. Henna is applied in the hands, fingertips, legs as a means of decoration by the ladies.


Does Henna cause fingerprint biometrics test failure?

To be honest there is no any scientific evidence which shows the effect of Henna dye on a biometric test. But immigration officers, INEC officials often encourage the public to keep-off from using Henna prior to the biometric test. It is advisable to stay away from Henna at least one week before the Election to avoid being disenfranchised by INEC officials looking for a flimsy excuse.


What can cause fingerprint biometrics test failure?

1.  Dry season (winter) causes the fingers to dry and that can lead to biometric test failure.
2.  Skin diseases such as Dermatitis.
3.  Heavyweight lifting.
4.  Excessive use of chemicals such as bleach, acetone etc
4. Burns

What should I do to my fingertips before a biometric test.

1. Maintain hand moisture by using lotions.
2. Keep your hand clean & avoid rubbing your palms with substances that can scratch the skin. E.g sand

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