" ITREALMS: INEC lacks transparency in election technology - ITREALMS

Monday, July 10, 2023

INEC lacks transparency in election technology - ITREALMS

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been accused of lacking in election technology transparency, reports ITREALMS.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu - INEC lacks transparency in election technology - ITREALMS
This accusation was contained in the latest report by the European Union Election Observation Mission for the Nigeria 2023 elections held between 25 February and 18 March this year and available to ITREALMS.

EU in the 92 page report stated that lack of transparency in the implementation of election technology used and failure to promptly upload the presidential elections results on INEC Result Viewing (iReV) portal contributed to decreased public trust in the credibility of the elections by INEC led by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

“Public enthusiasm for the 2023 election was strengthened by the introduction by INEC, for the first time in a general election, of new technology for biometric voter verification and electronic transmission of results forms.

“BVAS (Biomodal Voter Accreditation System) was used for biometric facial and fingerprint voter verification and for scanning and uploading the forms. INEC used the IReV portal for publication of results, aiming to enhance transparency and trust and to minimise malpractices,” EU reported.

Stressing that the BVAS technology was originally introduced as INEC in house development in June 2021 for voter registration and has been used subsequently in off-cycle and by-elections, enabling gradual development and adaptation.

On polling days, the mission noted that BVAS was used to verify a voter’s identity by matching the fingerprints or face with the biometric data stored in the memory of the device; in the Nigerian context called accreditation, underscoring that “Without accreditation, the voter is not allowed to vote.”

“BVAS implementation on election day should have significantly mitigated the possibility of multiple and proxy voting and recorded the number of voters who voted in assigned polling stations, so reducing eventual malpractices with inflating the number of voters who voted.

Emphasising that the second use of BVAS, was for scanning and uploading polling unit results forms to IReV. Noting that this was set up in August 2020 and used during Ekiti and Osun off-cycle elections in 2022. Its aim is to enhance transparency and overall confidence in results by providing real-time public access to polling unit results forms.

“This was intended to mitigate the risk of manipulation of results between the polling station and collation centre. Most stakeholders including CSOs conveyed a generally positive perception of the technological innovations prior to the elections.,” EU also reported.

Also, they pointed out that given the context of extensive challenges to the integrity of the elections in recent years, there had been huge interest in increasing the use of technology as a safeguard against malpractices.

“Strong stakeholder demand in that direction led INEC to take proactive steps for a transition to increased use of technology,” part of the report stated.

INEC, EU noted, strengthened its position through legal provisions for the use of technological devices for voter verification and electronic transmission or results now introduced in the 2022 Act.

ITREALMS gathered that the newly introduced provisions on the use of technology included Article 47 of the 2022 Act for the verification, together with reasoning for cancellation of and re-scheduling of an election in respective polling units in case of malfunctioning and non-replacement of the technological device or if the device is not deployed.

ITREALMS gathered that the law stipulated compulsory use of the technological device for voters’ accreditation, further detailed in INEC Regulations. 

Relevant regulations, they referred to the electronic transmission of results to the collation system as well as uploading a scanned copy of the results form to IReV 22, this is only vaguely supported 22 Article 38 of the Regulations.

*Remmy Nweke/DoP

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