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How we’re using technology to sanitise elections in Nigeria – INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it building trust among the Nigerian electorate which had almost lost hope in the country’s electoral processes.

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

With the latest experience where new technology adopted by the umpire has proved effective and discovered multiple registration in the Anambra gubernatorial elections, the agency has further reiterated determination to deepen the use of technologies in electoral process in the country.

The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the assurances at an interactive meeting with online publishers in Lagos on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.

Yakubu was full of praises for Ndi Anambra for peaceful conduct during the just concluded governorship election in the state.

He also said that why they introduced some new innovations especially in technology deployment was to deepen the use of technology and reduce human intervention in the critical stages of the electoral process.

He listed a few these new innovations to include the submission and processing of nominations forms and other applications online to drastically discourage human intervention in the electoral process.

Since the 2019 General Election, he underscored the fact that some of the commission’s activities are now conducted either partially or entirely online through dedicated portals, which include the “Voter pre-registration; Nomination of candidates for election by political parties; Submission of list of polling and collation agents by political parties; Accreditation of national and international observers for election; and accreditation of media organisations for elections.”

Yakubu pointed out that with INEC’s Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and launch of online registration portal, they undertook fresh registration of eligible voters with every general election until 2010 when the first reliable biometric register of voters was compiled, stressing that thereafter, the practice has been to undertake intermittent registration of voters on the eve of major elections.

“In our determination to serve Nigerians better and in response to repeated calls by stakeholders, the Commission introduced a dedicated portal for online registration on 28th June 2021,” he said.

This, he said, allows intending registrants to commence the process online by filling the forms, upload their pictures and required documents, and then make an appointment on the web portal for a date and time to visit an INEC State or Local Government Area (LGA) office to give their fingerprints and complete the registration.

The INEC chairman added that those who are already registered as voters can carry out all the other activities such as transfers, correction of personal details and replacement of damaged or defaced Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) online.

“Nigerians have fully embraced and are taking full advantage of the services available on the portal,” he declared.

The Commission, he said, has been updating Nigerians every week on new development since the CVR started. As of November 22, 2021, the CVR platform had recorded a total of 4,297,494 fresh registrants while 1,856,771 registrants have validated their application.

On the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), he said, in June this year, INEC introduced a special gadget designed in-house by the Commission’s engineers but fabricated abroad. It performs a variety of functions including physical registration of voters, fingerprint and facial authentication on election day and uploading of the polling unit result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal.

He noted that while IVED was used at the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration in June this year, it was first deployed for the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State on September 11, 2021 and later for the recently concluded Anambra Governorship election.

“In both elections, the equipment performed the functions of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) and the Z-Pad,” he said.

Further, he said that INEC Result Viewing Portal was introduced as the Commission’s efforts to engender transparency in the electoral process, to make available for public view copies of the polling unit election result sheet, known as Form EC8A on Election Day.

Speaking specifically on Anambra experience, Yakubu said, the Commission is not unaware of the issues raised about the performance of the new technology deployed for voter accreditation.

According to him, The deployment of the BVAS in the Anambra Governorship election was the second pilot test. It was intended to achieve two objectives.

First is voter accreditation to replace the Smart Card Reader. The second is the uploading of polling unit result on the IReV portal to replace the z-pad. The BVAS performed optimally in uploading results on the IReV but there were the usual challenges associated with the pilot of a new technology in a major election.

Continuing he said, “From our assessment so far, much of the glitches encountered on Election Day in Anambra State had little to do with the machines but more with the operators of the system. The extraordinarily difficult circumstances under which the election was held meant that some of the better trained ad hoc staff withdrew at the 11th hour. Similarly, some critical service providers such vehicle owners also withdrew thereby severely affecting our plans for rapid response by our technicians – the Registration Area Technical (RATECH) staff.

“Technical issues relating to the performance of the BVAS will be addressed in the presentation by our Director ICT at this important meeting. Suffice it to say that in spite of the glitches, BVAS has justified our determination to deepen the deployment of technology in the electoral process. Given the credible conclusion of the election, it has strengthened our belief that even the minimal introduction of technology in voter accreditation is better than the best manual process.”

He commended voters in Anambra State for their patience and faith in the new technology which he said has also justified the hope of citizens across the country that the deployment of more appropriate technology is essential to electoral integrity in Nigeria.

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