Yiaga Africa commends the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its consistent effort to improve the quality and transparency of elections particularly in the deployment of technology in the electoral process. INEC had in its quarterly Consultative meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSO’S) shared its plan to deploy the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for accreditation of voters and to enable near real-time viewing of results. As presented at the meeting, this all-in-one technology is a multifunctional integrated device that serves multiple purposes for different activities in the value chain of elections in Nigeria. This includes: serving as the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) during voter registration, serving as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation on election day which replaces the Smart Card Reader, and serving as the INEC Results Viewing Device (IReV Device) to be used for election results upload on election day.
This recent innovation is worthy of commendation especially because it is designed to ensure full voter authentication on election day. This is particularly important because as revealed in previous Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote election observation reports, the Smart Card Reader while achieving an impressive level of functionality had a major challenge with full biometric authentication of voters. The BVAS as presented will address this issue because it is designed as a bimodal biometric authentication device integrating both fingerprint and facial technology. Accordingly, on election day, the device will be used to authenticate voters either through fingerprint or facial recognition during accreditation. Where fingerprint authentication fails, facial authentication will be done. Where both fingerprint and facial authentication fails, the voter will not be allowed to vote.
During its quarterly meeting with Civil Society Organisations in Abuja, the Commission assured all present that the new machine is robust and sufficient to further guarantee the credibility of the voter accreditation and result management process and by extension promote transparent elections. This will significantly reduce or possibly eliminate incidents of multiple voting, PVC buying and selling, and PVC theft. We appreciate the commission’s effort and it is our considered opinion that the introduction of new technology will go a long way in guaranteeing the sanctity of the ballot. Thus, we are optimistic that the new BVAS will further boost citizens’ confidence in the process and encourage citizens’ participation.
Yiaga Africa looks forward to the BVAS pilot exercise in the Isoko South State Assembly Constituency bye-election in Delta State. We urge the Commission to document critical lessons from the deployment and make an effort to bridge any gap identified. We urge the Commission to consistently train its ad-hoc staff to build their capacity on how to use the BVAS to avert any form of capacity gap in the deployment of the system. We also call on the commission to develop a strategic plan to periodically upgrade its system to enhance its security and a comprehensive voter engagement strategy to educate voters on the new technology.
In addition, with the introduction of BVAS, it is important INEC commences an immediate review and timely release of the Manual for Elections and the Guideline for Election especially for stakeholders and election observation groups getting ready for the Anambra governorship election.
Finally, Yiaga Africa urges the National Assembly as it resumes on September 14, 2021, to accelerate the passage of the electoral amendment bill that legalises the deployment of technology for accreditation, voting and transmission of election results. This will further support the work of INEC, provide ample time for the familiarization of the improved legislation and build citizens’ confidence in the electoral process.
Director of Programs.