Go over voting tech, logistics, experts tell INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been advised to go back to the drawing board on the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and other logistics challenges witnessed during the just-concluded Anambra gubernatorial election.
The BVAS, a device that enables human recognition through biometric verification mechanism, using fingerprint and facial recognition, was piloted in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State before its deployment for the Anambra election on November 6.
Following the glitches witnessed during the Anambra election, the INEC has been urged to go over the technology in order to adequately prepare itself for future elections.
Jibrin Ibrahim, senior fellow, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), says INEC must strive to address hiccups associated with the use of the BVAS towards conducting future credible elections in Nigeria, especially since the technology was central to that.
“INEC has to improve on technology and deployment skills. You cannot keep having these hitches each time you are deploying a new technology,” Ibrahim states.
Sam Amadi, an election analyst that monitored the Anambra governorship election, says apart from the late arrival of election materials and poll officials, the BVAS disenfranchised hundreds of eligible voters and slowed down voting process in several LGAs monitored.
According to Amadi, “As was experienced with the card reader at its inception stage, we are confident that INEC will seek solutions to the identified challenges with the device.
“However, INEC must take immediate measures to enhance the infrastructure behind the technology and ensure adequate training for ad-hoc staff on the efficient use of the device going forward,”
Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, says despite the deficiencies witnessed during the election, it is still a very good mechanism to check electoral fraud and manipulation.
He however notes that the system gave credibility to the process at the election, noting, “What I will urge the INEC on is to ensure its effectiveness in our subsequent elections. It is also to train the ad-hoc staff early on how to operate it for efficiency and smooth electoral process.”
Observers also advise INEC to check the slow pace of transmission of results to the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) portal, adding that the successful deployment of the device in many polling units demonstrates its utility and reliability.
The governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and now winner of the election, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, described the BVAS as a complete failure.
“The fundamental thing is that the technology collapsed. This BVAS technology is a complete failure. If it could still be rectified, that would be in minutes or hours to come and by 12:30pm voting is yet to start in many polling units,” the APGA candidate told journalists on the day of the poll when he went to vote.
Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, said the Commission would carry out an in-depth examination of the system, review reports from accredited observers and the media and respond to all identified challenges ahead of the next major Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), holding on February 12, 2022.
“We shall again test run the system in the bye-election (s) that may arise before then. The Commission remains convinced that despite some glitches experienced in Anambra State governorship election, the deployment of technology in elections is better than the best manual process,” he said.
Though a laudable idea that opened a new chapter in the conduct of election in Nigeria, the reported malfunction of the BVAS in most polling units in the Anambra governorship election has raised concerns about the reliability of the device.
The just concluded Anambra governorship election has indicated that the INEC has to go back to the drawing board.
The system performed two functions on Election Day, which are to be replicated in future polls, including the 2023 general election.
First is the accreditation of voters using both the fingerprint and facial authentication, and the second, it snaps the polling unit level result sheets and uploads them in real-time to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal.
Nkwachukwu Orji, INEC resident electoral commissioner in Anambra, had explained that the extension of voting on November 6 was due to field reports that voters have had problems with accreditation.
He said the Commission had to investigate the reason the accreditation device, BVAS, had worked perfectly in some polling units, but not in others.
“In some of the cases, it would seem that this resulted from software glitches. Our technicians have already built an update to the device software to prevent further challenges. The update is currently being installed in the concerned BVAS and we request voters, candidates and agents to be patient and allow our technical staff to solve the problem,” he said.
According to Orji, “The Commission wishes to reiterate that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected polling unit shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the Commission.
“With this extension of time and the recommencement of accreditation where the BVAS consistently malfunctions, the Commission assures that no voter will be disenfranchised.”