By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again expressed its preference for the deployment of technology in managing Nigeria’s complex electoral process, saying it is better than the best manual process.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu who disclosed this Tuesday in Abuja during a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners RECs said with its Automatic Biometric Identification System ABIS, INEC has been able to weed out multiple registrants in the Federal Capital Territory FCT ahead of the Area Council Polls.
INEC position comes hours after President Muhammadu Buhari withheld assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which contained clauses on the use of electronic transmission of results and imposition of direct primaries on political parties.
Yakubu added that the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System BVAS which has now replaced the Smart Card Reader for verification and authentication of voters have come to stay.
He said; “As you are aware, the Commission piloted two important technological innovations in the Anambra State Governorship election.
“The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System BVAS was deployed for the first time in a major election after the successful pilot in the Isoko South I State Constituency in Delta State in September this year.
“The BVAS has replaced the Smart Card Reader for verification and authentication as part of our improved voter accreditation process. The new technology was designed in-house by INEC engineers.
“Like every new technology, glitches were observed and important lessons learnt.
“We wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission has reviewed the performance of the BVAS in Anambra State and there will be a tremendous improvement leading to optimal performance in future elections.
“The BVAS has come to stay. So too is the uploading of Polling Unit results on the INEC Result Viewing IReV portal in real-time on Election Day.
“We are convinced that the introduction of technology in voter accreditation and result management is better than the best entirely manual process.
“It also increases public confidence in the process. We will continue to deepen the use of technology in our elections.
“The second technological innovation introduced in the Anambra Governorship election went virtually unnoticed by many Nigerians.
“For some time now, dedicated portals were created by Commission to handle a different aspect of the electoral process.
“For instance, the nomination of candidates by political parties, including the uploading of nomination forms, is now done online.
“So too is the accreditation of election observers and the media. In addition, and for the first time in the history of the Commission, the accreditation of polling and collation agents nominated by political parties was done online.
“This has ensured that all such agents were provided with identification tags bearing not only their party logos, names and other personal details but personal photographs as well.
“In all, the Commission issued 63,745 identification tags to agents of the 18 political parties that sponsored candidates for the election.
“This has sanitized the process and made the identification of ghost party agents easier. We will maintain the same arrangement for all forthcoming elections, including the 2023 General Election.
“Turning to the CVR, we have now completed the Second Quarter of the exercise which commenced online in June and physically at designated centres in July. We have also been giving Nigerians weekly updates for the last six months.
“The Third Quarter of the exercise will commence in January next year. The Commission is aware that Nigerians would like to know when the exercise will be devolved beyond our State and Local Government offices to enable more citizens to register.
“Secondly, for those already registered, they would like to know when their Permanent Voters’ Cards PVCs will be available for collection. The Commission is working on these concerns and issues and will issue a comprehensive schedule for both activities early in the new year.
“Meanwhile, in view of the forthcoming Area Council Elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) scheduled for 12th February 2022 involving 68 constituencies to elect 6 Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors, the CVR exercise was suspended nine days ago i.e. 60 days to the election as required by law.
“A total of 42,986 Nigerians completed their registration in the FCT. The Commission has diligently cleaned up the data using our new Automatic Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to weed out multiple registrations.
“As a testimony to the efficacy of our ABIS process, 14,665 (34.1%) multiple registrations were detected and rejected. Consequently, the number of new valid registrants in the FCT is 28,321.
“Added to this figure are requests for transfer of registrations to FCT, replacement of lost or damaged PVCs and update of voter records, making an overall total of 39,208 new PVCs to be printed.
“I am glad to report that all the PVCs will be available for collection from 6th January 2022 until 4th February 2022. The FCT Office of the Commission will provide full details of the locations and procedure for the collection of the PVCs in earnest.
“I urge all new voters to seize the opportunity to collect their voters’ cards ahead of the deadline and avoid last minute rush that characterized such exercise in the past.
“You may recall that in June this year, the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the Ekiti Governorship election holding on 18th June 2022 and the Osun Governorship election scheduled for 16th July 2022.
“A major activity for the two Governorship elections is the conduct of primaries by political parties for the nomination of candidates for the election.
“For Ekiti State, the exercise begins in the next 2 weeks on 4th January 2022 and ends on 29th January 2022.
“In the case of Osun State, party primaries begin on 16th February 2022 and ends on 12th March 2022.
“In addition, there are eight pending bye-elections involving three Federal Constituencies (Jos North/Bassa in Plateau State, Akure North/Akure South in Ondo State and Ogoja/Yala in Cross River State) and five State constituencies (Shinkafi in Zamfara State, Ekiti East I in Ekiti State, Akpabuyo in Cross River State, Pankshin South in Plateau State and Giwa West in Kaduna State).
“The Commission wishes to remind political parties that in choosing their candidates for these elections, they must abide by the provisions of the law, INEC’s regulations and guidelines as well as their Constitutions and guidelines.
“INEC will monitor the primaries as required by law. Political parties must therefore hold themselves to the same high standard of free, fair, transparent and credible elections that they expect from INEC during general elections.
“Any political party that fails to conduct democratic primaries within the timeframe provided in the Commission’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities cannot be expected to submit the names of candidates to INEC for elections.
“In addition to these off-cycle elections, we must also continue to prepare for the 2023 General Election.
“We have so many physical facilities to rebuild, materials to replace, regulations and guidelines to work on, consultations with stakeholders to strengthen, capacity of our staff to enhance and several aspects of election administration to improve upon. Next year is therefore going to be a very busy year for us”, he added.