Last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced that it was going to deploy the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Device (BVAD) to capture faces and fingerprints of voters for the upcoming governorship election in Anambra state.
According to the commission, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System will combine two modes of voter verification; fingerprint and face biometrics for voter’s identity verification.
“We will continue to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process. We believe that that is the way to go. We believe that Nigeria is ripe to join regional and international organizations and other agencies that have deployed technology successfully in the electoral process.”INEC
The announcement by the Chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, has received varied reactions. While some people have applauded the commission for this new development describing it as a step in the right direction, a significant number of people are still unsure how this is really going to affect the credibility of the election process.
How does this device work?
The electoral commission, during its presentation, explained that the BVAD system is a multifunctional integrated device that will serve different layers of purposes for different activities in the process of adding value to the elections in Nigeria.
The all-in-one technology will serve as the INEC’s Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) during the commission’s voter registration exercise. It will also serve as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation on election day, replacing the Smart Card Readers.
Finally, it will serve as the INEC’s Result Viewing Device (IReV Device) which will be used for uploading election results on election day.
The functionality which this device presents is a result of years of brainstorming. According to INEC, the commission first attempted to introduce facial biometric authentication to the Z-pad tablet to complement the fingerprint process done through the Card Reader.
However, the commission was not satisfied with the result of the pilot deployed for the Nasarawa Central State Constituency by-election and had to suspend the idea. Instead, it used the Z-pad to only upload polling Unit results to the IReV portal during elections.
INEC would later integrate the functionality of the Z-pad into the IVED which is currently used for voter registration after some adjustments. The same device will also be used on election day. It will first be used for fingerprint authentication during accreditation. If that fails as it has been known to, the bimodal system will attempt a facial authentication.
Recall that in January this year, during one of its workshops, the electoral commission had hinted that it was reviewing its adopted technologies for elections, with the motive of introducing newer ones capable of improving the conduct of the elections ahead of 2023. It is safe to say then that this system is the outcome of the review.
INEC electronic voting journey
INEC started the race towards achieving electronic voting in Nigeria back in 2004. The commission has introduced innovations like optical map registration forms and direct data capture machines. It then expanded the application of these machines to culminate in the Smart Card Reader (SCR) and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
The electoral umpire believes that the BVAD system will address the lapses of the smart card readers, especially the possibility of voting by identity theft. It stated that it was continuously innovating on how to strengthen the credibility of its voter’s accreditation process and also looking to reinvent its result management process during elections in Nigeria.
The Need for the New System
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing media executives on Tuesday in Abuja, stated that there was an important need for the use of a bimodal verification system, especially with reference to the use of incident forms where the Smart Card readers failed to authenticate the fingerprints of voters.
In the existing use of the Smart Card Readers, the commission is required to allow individuals to cast their votes even if the smart card fails to authenticate the fingerprints by filling out an incident form. INEC says these practices have led to some legitimate concerns as anybody can vote in a polling unit as long as they present a card configured for that unit, irrespective of who presents it.
With this apprehension, an individual may be able to present another person’s PVC for use during an election.
To curb this issue and improve the credibility of the polls, the commission has insisted that the upcoming elections are going to be solely based on electronic accreditation. Individuals who are unable to be verified through fingerprint verification will be required to go through facial recognition. Failure of the system to recognize any of these accreditation procedures means such people will be ineligible to vote.
Civil society organizations and election monitoring organizations have continued to applaud INEC’s moves, and hopefully, this will be the device that ushers in a new era.
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