Just three months to the start of the 2023 elections, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, started a beef with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It wasn’t about electoral violence or vote buying but rather a new feature of the 2023 elections.
The APC national chairman believes Nigeria isn’t ready to use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for elections because we have unresolved network and power supply issues.
But what exactly is the BVAS, why’s Adamu pressed about it and why should Nigerian voters care about its existence?
BVAS eliminates voter identity fraud
The BVAS is an electronic device that exists primarily to authenticate the identity of voters. It has a fingerprint and facial detection sensor to limit voter fraud which is a big problem in Nigerian elections.
BVAS is an upgrade on the smart card reader which was used to authenticate voters with only their fingerprints in the 2015 and 2019 general elections. Unlike the smart card reader, BVAS also helps INEC officials to electronically upload election results from the polling units.
The smart card reader is being phased out in 2023 [Source: Daily Post]
What are the benefits?
According to INEC, BVAS is the solution to all problems regarding electoral malpractices. In 2018, for instance, there were cases of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) being cloned and sold on Alibaba Express before the 2019 elections.
With the BVAS, such occurrences would no longer be the case, as every voter can be accurately verified and accounted for. It also makes PVC selling unwise, as party agents can no longer rig an election with the use of fake or illegitimate PVCs.
But how efficient is this BVAS?
BVAS may seem like the answer to INEC’s prayers, but it’s not flawless. The device needs a steady 4G data connection to run seamlessly and we all know how erratic data connection is in Nigeria.
BVAS malfunction caused hitches during the Anambra governorship election in 2021. The glitches forced INEC to extend the voting time by an extra hour and a half. Using BVAS also caused challenges during the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Election of February 12, 2022.
Does BVAS help Nigeria in the long run?
BVAS is a welcome addition to Nigeria’s electoral process as it eliminates voter identity fraud which is a big problem. But it still doesn’t completely address identity fraud issues as we recently saw with scores of underage voters on INEC’s register.
So, what if it verifies an illegitimate voter or allows a voter to cast his or her votes more than once? That defeats the purpose of the device to completely eliminate identity fraud.