As the 2023 elections draw closer, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have started to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. 

Part of the finishing touches is a mock testing of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine on February 4 in 436 polling units. 

The machine is expected to eliminate one of Nigeria’s biggest electoral problems — voter identity fraud. This is to be achieved using both thumbprint and facial recognition technology.

But really has the problem been solved? Even though the system has some great benefits, BVAS has disappointed us more than once. 

One begins to wonder if we can trust the BVAS to give us a free and fair election. 

Let’s dive deep into these ‘failures’:

The Osun state elections

On July 16, 2022, Ademola Adeleke of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) overthrew incumbent governor Gboyega Oyetola with 403,371 votes. This made him clinch the highest seat in Osun state — that of the governor. Here’s how we imagine the after-party must have been:

But Oyetola wasn’t going to go down without a fight. In August 2022, he went to file a 1000+ page petition before the Osun State tribunal. 

Six months after Adeleke’s triumphant victory and a string of changes in Osun state governance, there came some bad news for Adeleke. The tribunal had sacked him as Osun state governor. And it was all because of a case of over-voting with the BVAS.

What is over-voting and what does BVAS have to do with it?

Over-voting is simply a case of the number of votes cast being more than the number of accredited voters. Usually, after an election, the votes cast are transferred to a ward collation result form or “Form EC8A” after which the BVAS scans the forms. 

If the number of votes cast on the form EC8A doesn’t tally with the number of accredited voters on the BVAS system, it simply means that there is foul play and the election should be cancelled. This is in accordance with Section 51 of the 2022 Electoral Act.

In the tribunal, it was noted that there were cases of over-voting in over 749 polling units in the state. This led to the reduction of Adeleke’s votes from 403,371 votes to 290,666 votes. This was significantly lower than the 314,921 polled by Oyetola.

Many Nigerians have wondered since then why the BVAS wasn’t able to detect over-voting when votes were compared during the elections.

The Anambra state elections

During the 2021 Anambra state elections, the Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) had to appeal to INEC to extend the time for voting .

This was due to the slow connectivity of the BVAS machines and even its inability to recognise voters’ faces.

The Abuja council elections 

February 12, 2022, was also a bad day for BVAS usage in the Federal Capital Territory, as voters in cities such as Kubwa, Abaji and many others had challenges with BVAS.

After all said and done, how can INEC build trust in citizens once again concerning the BVAS?

How can INEC restore trust in the BVAS?

  • Improvement of BVAS software: The BVAS operating software should be upgraded to have a feature that enables the camera to detect or capture/focus on the object of interest, such as the entire result sheet. 
  • INEC should electronically transmit and publish the number of accredited voters on its results viewing portal (IReV).
  • More mock exercises of the BVAS should be done before the elections
  • Ward collation result forms should be electronically transmitted straight to the IRev, and not physically compared with BVAS.

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