2023 Elections: INEC, BVAS and Nigeria

Spread the love

The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters, using the voters’ fingerprints, in order to prove that they are eligible to vote at a particular polling unit.

When BVAS was introduced to the electoral process, it was praised by Nigerians as solution to the corrupt voting system.

BVAS entails either scanning the barcode (QR code) on the PVC, Voter’s register or entering the last six digits of the Voter Identity Number or typing in the last name of the voter by the Assistant Presiding Officer.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, told Nigerians when BVAS was introduced, that, the device was intended to achieve two objectives – first is the verification of intending voter and second, is to replace the Z-pad for uploading the polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in real-time during election.

Nigerians were told that, BVAS will also act as the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) during voter registration. With the introduction of BVAS, the use of incident forms during accreditation for failed accreditation has been eliminated.

Stakeholders had expressed reservations before the November 6, 2021 Anambra Governorship Election, as to the effectiveness of the machine, considering the epileptic network of service providers across the country.

Before then, some INEC presiding officers complained when it was first deployed in the Isoko South Constituency 1 bye-election in Delta State on September 10, 2021. They confessed that the device had difficulties capturing the thumbs and faces of some of the voters, especially the cards that were issued long ago.

Expectedly, INEC dismissed these fears – saying, the machine had been test-run and proved by its IT personnel to have the capacity to perform optimally during the Anambra governorship polls. INEC also assured that the hiccups that occurred during the Delta bye-election had been resolved and the device improved to forestall future malfunctioning.

Not withstanding the INEC chairman’s assurance, the hitches during the Anambra governorship election as a result of BVAS failure were unprecedented. The situation resulted to low voters record. Even the extension of voting time from 2:30pm to 4pm due to challenges experienced across polling units as a result of the BVAS malfunction, could not remedy the severity of the problem.

Again, on February 12, 2022, during the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Election, the BVAS device disinfranchised several eligible voters. The failure was confirmed by observer groups in their reports to INEC.

On this occasion, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Yahaya Bello, also admitted the flaws with the usage of BVAS during the election.

Recently and perhaps most disturbing is the contention and admittance by both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that BVAS recorded serious over-voting in some units during the Governorship election in Osun State.

Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and his APC has challenged the declaration of Ademola Adeleke of PDP by INEC as the winner of the election in 10 Local Government Areas, but the PDP admitted that over-voting took place in “only six polling units”, contrary to 749 claimed by the defeated governor.

Counsel for the petitioner, Oyetola, Dr. Saka Layoonu (SAN) has tendered documentary evidence, including the CTC of the much-celebrated BVAS reports which indicated that the number of accredited voters is lower than the total number of votes cast and recorded by BVAS in the said councils.

No doubt, all these incidents are pointers to the unviability and unreliability of INEC’s magic – BVAS.

In the course of putting this editorial together, an INEC personnel who participated in the Osun election, told Midwest Herald that, there were incidents were the BVAS accredited voters in polling units different from where their PVC was registered to vote.

Technology experts have put forward various reasons for the abysmal performance of BVAS.

First on the list is the refusal of INEC to update the operating software. The other is broadband access, requiring 4G technology for convenient download, in addition to poor internet access – especially in remote locations without 4G network coverage.

The February 2023 elections will be conducted with an estimated 95 million registered voters in 176,846 polling units distributed across 774 Local Government Areas. They will elect from a total of 12,163 candidates sponsored by 18 political parties that will be on the ballot for election into 109 Senatorial Districts, 360 Federal Constituencies, 993 State Constituencies, 28 Governorship positions, and one candidate for the office of the President.

There is no gain saying that Prof. Mahmood’s INEC will be unable to deliver on the promise to organise free, fair and credible elections with the BVAS, come February 2023.

To forestall the impending electoral crises, the managers of INEC should as a matter of urgency, demonstrate enough capability to midwife Nigeria’s all important 2023 General Elections.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *