Paradoxically, Nigeria is barely Seventy-Eight (78) days away from a general elections that could strengthen or deface its democracy.
However, laudable developments thus far, includes a surge in voter registrations and a wave of civic engagement among young Nigerians who in the recent past have often despaired of better governance through elections. Yet, dangers loom: risks of electoral violence or disputed election results in a country where political and criminal violence has reached new levels.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured Nigerians that the 2023 general election will be technology-driven to avoid any human errors.
Speaking during a Twitter space organised by the Commission on Friday, November 4, on the topic ‘Why INEC BVAS, IReV are critical to the 2023 General Election,’ the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) will be deployed for the 2023 general elections.
Okoye said: “We have reached the critical stage in the electoral process, in this critical stage, it’s important to let Nigerians know some of the creative innovation that had been pinpointed for the purposes of the 2023 elections. The INEC chairman has made it clear to Nigerians that only the vote of Nigerians will determine this election. He has also made it clear that this particular election will be technology-driven.
He noted that Commission has the power to make use of electronic voting machines in the electoral process.
“Both the Constitution and the Electoral Act have also given the Commission the power to make subsidiary legislations and the Commission has also made regulation and guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 general election and other subsequent elections.
“By the provision of Section 41 of the Electoral Act, the National assembly and invariably the Nigerian people have given the Commission the right and power to provide what we call suitable boxes, electronic voting machines, or any other voting device for the conduct of election.
“The implication is that for the 2023 general election, the Commission has exclusive right and responsibility to determine the mode of election and for this particular election the Commission has made a determination that it will continue to use the ballot boxes and the ballot papers for the conduct of elections. Subsequently there is a possibility that the Commission may deploy and introduce electronic voting machines in the electoral process.”
He stressed that no registered voter in Nigeria will vote without passing through the gate of BVAS which has been recommended by INEC as a technological device for voter’s authentication and verification.
“In terms of IREV, it’s also impossible not to transmit the Polling Unit level result into the INEC result viewing portal. This is because, Section 50, Section 60 and as well as Section 64 of the Electoral Act have made it mandatory that the result of election should be transmitted electronically,” he said.
The INEC deputy director of ICT, Lawrence Bayode, also added that BVAS and IREV will play a pivotal role in creating a free, fair and credible election.
“INEC, since 2002, progressively has deployed technology to improve the transparency and credibility of its electoral process. And therefore, the deployment of these two technologies in the coming general election in the 2023 are going to play a very strong role and their role will be pivotal in reducing human intervention that could lead to alteration of the wishes of voters.”
Bayode stressed that BVAS is used during accreditation to verify voters unlike the smart card reader where the information of the voters is read from the PVC.
“It is also to authenticate that the bearer of the PVC is the legitimate owner of the card using the fingerprint or the facial matching. BVAS can also be used to scan and upload result to the IREV portal at the end of the poll.”
Therefore, we believe that supporting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the domestic front means (1) ensuring that political figures refrain from anything that smacks of political interference with the election process, and (2) that the Nigerian military and police share full information on the precarious security situation, so that the commission can make informed decisions for a secure election. This is acute in disparate locales, overrun by criminality, where it could be difficult to hold elections at all.
To help Africa’s most populous nation pivot toward stability and to indirectly bolster democratization across the continent; the United States and other international partners should provide diplomatic, political and technical support for Nigeria’s electoral authority.