EMEKA NZE writes that despite drawbacks by relevant organs of government supposed to mutually work to actualize the digitalisation of the electoral system, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) is not resting on its oars to navigate through the odds
INEC insistence on technology
By deliberate acts to revolutionalise Nigeria’s electoral system, to ensure free fair and credible elections, it is a consensus among Nigerians that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Prof Mahmood Yakubu has demonstrated apostolic zeal in the quest to deploy technology.
Drawback from legislature, executives
However, that cannot be said of those other arms of government reposed with the responsibility to give legal teeth to INEC’s electoral reforms.
By the legislature’s reluctance to enact enabling laws to speed up the electoral process, on one hand, and the other, the executive’s habitual refusal to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill even when passed by NASS, “reaffirms that conservatives and reactionaries in politics have little or nothing to do with societal reforms.”
Digitalising electoral system
Notwithstanding the drawback, INEC has surged ahead to eliminate the bottlenecks associated with the old system, “first by adopting digital measures in reviewing and updating of the voter register to eliminate multiple registration, secondly, electronically speeding up collation processes to eschew tardiness and maintain accuracy of figures and thirdly, considerably removing or reducing the possibility of rigging through alteration of figures by electoral officials to ensure transparency.”
Due to the glitches observed in the earlier devices such as the use of Smart Card Readers (SCRs) during accreditation of voters, and the slowness of the process, the commission introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System as well as the Automatic Biometric Identification (ABIS).
Only last week, Prof Yakubu while meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja delightfully acknowledged the gains already recorded through the deployment of ABIS, when he said INEC has been able to weed out multiple registrants in the federal capital territory ahead of the Area Council elections.
“The commission has diligently cleaned up the data using our new Automatic Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to weed out multiple registrations. As a testimony to the efficacy of our ABIS process, 14,665 (34.1%) multiple registrations were detected and rejected. Consequently, the number of new valid registrants in the FCT is 28,321.”
No going back on BVAS, others
Yakubu declared that the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System BVAS which have now replaced the Smart Card Reader for verification and authentication of voters have come to stay.
He said, “As you are aware, the commission piloted two important technological innovations in the Anambra state governorship election. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was deployed for the first time in a major election after the successful pilot in the Isoko South I State constituency in Delta state in September this year.
“The BVAS has replaced the Smart Card Reader for verification and authentication as part of our improved voter accreditation process. The new technology was designed in-house by INEC engineers.
“Like every new technology, glitches were observed and important lessons learnt.
“We wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission has reviewed the performance of the BVAS in Anambra State and there will be a tremendous improvement leading to optimal performance in future elections.
“The BVAS has come to stay. So too is the uploading of Polling Unit results on the INEC Result Viewing IReV portal in real-time on Election Day.
“We are convinced that the introduction of technology in voter accreditation and result management is better than the best entirely manual process.
“It also increases public confidence in the process. We will continue to deepen the use of technology in our elections.
“The second technological innovation introduced in the Anambra Governorship election went virtually unnoticed by many Nigerians.
“For some time now, dedicated portals were created by the commission to handle a different aspect of the electoral process.
Online nomination of candidates
“For instance, the nomination of candidates by political parties, including the uploading of nomination forms, is now done online.
“So too is the accreditation of election observers and the media. In addition, and for the first time in the history of the commission, the accreditation of polling and collation agents nominated by political parties was done online.
“This has ensured that all such agents were provided with identification tags bearing not only their party logos, names and other personal details but personal photographs as well.
“In all, the commission issued 63,745 identification tags to agents of the 18 political parties that sponsored candidates for the election.
“This has sanitized the process and made the identification of ghost party agents easier. We will maintain the same arrangement for all forthcoming elections, including the 2023 general election.
Continuous Voter Registration
“Turning to the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), we have now completed the second quarter of the exercise which commenced online in June and physically at designated centres in July. We have also been giving Nigerians weekly updates for the last six months.
“The third quarter of the exercise will commence in January next year. The commission is aware that Nigerians would like to know when the exercise will be devolved beyond our state and local government offices to enable more citizens to register.
“Secondly, for those already registered, they would like to know when their Permanent Voters’ Cards PVCs will be available for collection. The Commission is working on these concerns and issues and will issue a comprehensive schedule for both activities early in the new year.”
2023 general polls
In furtherance to the deployment of technology, the INEC chairman said, “in addition to the off-cycle elections, the commission must also continue to prepare for the 2023 general elections.
“We have so many physical facilities to rebuild, materials to replace, regulations and guidelines to work on, consultations with stakeholders to strengthen, capacity of our staff to enhance and several aspects of election administration to improve upon. Next year is therefore going to be a very busy year for us”, he added.