Yiaga Africa tasks INEC on observed lapses in mock accreditation
Yiaga Africa, a Civil Society Organisation has advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rectify observed lapses at the recently concluded mock accreditation for a successful 2023 election.
The Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Mr Samson Itodo said this while presenting the organisation’s report on Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) testing, mock accreditation and electronic transmission of accreditation data in Abuja on Friday.
Itodo said that data and technology would play prominent role in 2023 election, because INEC was relying on electoral technology to enhance the transparency and credibility of the election.
He said that tools such as the BVAS and INEC Election Result Viewing portal (IREV) would be deployed for the election.
He said to deliver on Nigerians expectations; the deployment of electoral technologies must conform to the principles of transparency, accountability, suitability, cost-effectiveness, security, accuracy and inclusion.
He said that INEC should make public its reports on the set-up and testing of the BVAS and mock accreditation and provide update on steps taken to address the challenges identified during the BVAS testing and mock accreditation.
He added that the mock accreditation confirmed that INEC assigned registered voters to new polling units without prior information to them, revealing a potential operational challenge on Election Day where voters would be unable to locate their polling units.
“INEC should investigate cases where the BVAS failed to authenticate the biometrics of voters, despite having the names on the register. This will inspire public confidence in the BVAS and IReV.
“As a matter of national emergency, INEC should notify all voters affected by the migration of polling units of changes to their polling units via text messages, emails, and phone calls if possible.
“ In addition, a copy of the voter register should be posted across polling units for voter to confirm their polling unit.
“This should be backed by a national campaign on locate and confirm your polling units via online and offline platforms,’’ he said.
Itodo said there was need for INEC to replicate the transmission of the accreditation data on the BVAS to the IReV in the general election.
He added that the transmitting accreditation figures would enhance the transparency of the election as it would give Nigerians the opportunity to check the consistency of the number of accredited voters recorded on the BVAS and the accreditation figures entered on the result sheet by polling officials.
He said that INEC should educate polling officials on recording and documentation of election figures, to avoid discrepancies between the accreditation data uploaded by the BVAS to the IReV and the figures recorded on the polling unit result sheet.
He said INEC should ensure all the BVAS devices deployed for the mock accreditation were reconfigured to read zero in the field for accreditation before deploying for the general election.
He said that the assembling a monitoring team to supervise and monitor the reconfiguration was highly recommended.
“Yiaga Africa commends and encourages INEC to continue to demonstrate its commitment to enhancing the transparency of the electoral process, while hoping that all the other recommendations of ERAD will be implemented for the 2023 general election.
Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said that in the states observed by Yiaga Africa, the BVAS testing was successful and the ICT staff demonstrated good knowledge of the systems and testing guidelines.
She however, said some devices failed activation and configuration due to hardware failures such as problematic cameras, screens and power buttons.
She said the exercise was also blighted by poor internet connectivity.
“Network challenges were experienced mostly in Adamawa, Taraba, Akwa Ibom and Rivers states.
“More than half of the locations visited during the four visits experienced network challenges which hindered the activation of the machines on the days observed.
“Cases of faulty BVAS devices were reported in states like Sokoto, Edo, and Akwa Ibom, the ICT officials discovered the defective hardware components when they attempted to operate the machines.
“The dominant hardware defects include non-functioning camera, faulty screen and faulty fingerprint scanner and reports from half of the centers indicate faulty fingerprint scanners was the most prevalent defect with the BVAS devices,’’ she said.
Mbamalu said that in some states, INEC officials resisted and declined to grant access to citizen observers to observe the testing process and this hampered the observation in Zamfara, Jigawa, Kaduna, Plateau Kogi, FCT, Cross-River, Bauchi, and Gombe states amongst others.
She said that in 98 per cent of polling units, the BVAS functioned properly, saying however that in two per cent of polling units, the BVAS malfunctioned, and it was fixed.
She said that in 84 per cent of polling units, every voter’s fingerprint was checked using the BVAS and in cases where the fingerprint authentication failed, the official resorted to facial authentication.
She said that Yiaga Africa observers reported cases of missing names of the voter register and the BVAS were denied accreditation.
Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Board Member, Yiaga Africa, recommended that registered voters should utilise platforms provided by INEC to locate and confirm their polling units before election day.
Nwagwu said that this would fast-track the process of voting on Election Day.
He said that the National Assembly should consider further amendments to the Electoral Act, 2022 after the 2023 general election to make the conduct of testing and mock exercises for electoral technologies mandatory including timelines for their conduct.
He said that political parties should educate party agents on the process of accreditation and results management process to ensure effective oversight and avert undue interference with the process on Election Day.
He said that civil society groups, media and international partners should undertake and support campaign initiatives aimed at assisting voters to locate and confirm their polling unit including inspiring confidence in the BVAS and IReV.