February 25, 2023

Voting guide to Nigerians: How BVAS works

Voting guide to Nigerians: How BVAS works

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What INEC must do to limit human interference

By Jide Ajani

This report serves as a guide to Nigerians on the steps to be taken at the polling unit on election day, culminating in voting and declaration of results. 

The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, is expected to help reduce the cases of manual manipulation of figures. However, the human element remains a major concern.  Weekend Vanguard presents details of how BVAS works and why voters should be vigilant.

Time of voting

Voting is expected to open from 8am to 2pm.

Voters on the queue before 2pm will be accredited and allowed to vote.  Even at 2pm, all those who are already on the queue will have the opportunity to vote.

Voting At The Polling Unit: Accreditation

Step One: Join the queue.  While there, an INEC official will check if you are at the correct Polling Unit.  If you are, you are allowed to stay on the queue.  But if you are not at the correct Polling Unit, you’ll be advised to go and locate your Polling Unit.

He will also confirm that the PVC presented actually belongs to you.

Step Two: An INEC official will confirm if your PVC is genuine using the Card Reader.  If it is not, you’ll be advised to exit the area.  If your card is genuine, you will be asked to place your finger on the Card Reader for verification and authentication that the card in your possession, indeed, belongs to you.

Step Three: An INEC official will also confirm that you are listed in the Voter Register.  If you are, the process continues.  If you are not on the register, you’ll be advised to leave the area quietly without causing any commotion.  That means you can not vote at that Polling Unit. Upon confirmation that your name is on the register, your name would be ticked and your finger will be inked to confirm that you have voted.

Step Four: The presiding officer will stamp, sign and endorse your ballot paper.

Make sure this is done correctly or else if the signing, stamping and endorsing of the ballot paper is incomplete, it renders the ballot paper invalid.

You’ll be given the ballot paper rolled with the printed side inwards.

You will then be directed to the voting cubicle

Step Five: While in the cubicle, you’ll stain your finger with the ink given; and then mark the box for your preferred candidate’s party.

Roll the ballot paper in the manner you were given and flatten it.

Step Sis: Leave the voting cubicle and drop the ballot paper in the ballot box in full view of the people at the polling unit.

Step Seven: Leave the Polling Unit or wait if you wish to in an orderly and peaceful manner to watch the process up to the declaration of the result.

The result of each Polling Unit shall be pasted at the unit for everyone to see.

What Nigerians should know about BVAS and transmission

The problem of over voting has been with us for a long time and it occurs when the total number of votes cast exceed the total number of accredited voters.

The BVAS machines, as manufactured and configured, cannot be tampered with.

Once the procedure of identification is engaged, the machine captures and authenticates the bearer of the Permanent Voter Card, PVC, and registers the same instantly.

However, this data of the accreditation of the individual is not immediately transmitted to the INEC server; it is on the machine and anyone who wants to check would see that the machine actually verified and captured the said voter. 

Any voter not captured by BVAS cannot be introduced as captured on the machine. The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has made it clear that without a PVC, nobody will be allowed to vote.  And it is the PVC and the particulars on it that will allow a voter to be accredited using BVAS.

The human interference that could mess up the process is in the copying of the figures on the BVAS into the result sheet and there could be human errors but once the content and data on the BVAS is made available for all to see, what that does is that even if the entire data is not fully downloaded, the publication on the INEC Result Viewing, IREV, the portal would have given Nigerians access to the actual number of voters accredited at the polling unit on that day because the time for which the upload occurs is not automatic.

Therefore, posting the total number of accredited voters on IREV would give Nigerians access to see and know the number of those actually accredited.

Accreditation with BVAS is very important because without accreditation with the BVAS, you cannot vote and if you vote without being properly accredited by the BVAS, such a vote will not count. It is the voter captured by BVAS accreditation process that will remain on the BVAS and that is the one that will count.

The BVAS will accredit a certain number of people at those polling units but the BVAS will not automatically transfer data to the IREV portal. 

It is still retained in the machine, so after the election has been concluded at the polling unit, the presiding officer takes the BVAS, looks at the number of accredited voters and manually records it on the result sheet.

In that particular process, several things could happen.

The presiding officer, in recording the number of accredited voters from the BVAS on the result sheet, could input figures different from what is contained in the BVAS on the result sheets.

Human interference

Being mortals, there could be errors on the part of presiding officers at the polling unit just as there could be inadvertent or deliberate slips at the INEC headquarters housing the server.

There could be inadvertent computation errors, in which case, a presiding officer enters figures different from what is on the BVAS machine.

There could also be deliberate sabotage of making wrong entries different from what is on the BVAS machine.

If that happens, the BVAS machine will indicate the correct thing.

Therefore, it is important that INEC maximises the potential for transparency that BVAS and IREV provide to avoid a repeat of the type of scenario that happened at the Osun tribunal.

What INEC must do

INEC has agreed to transmit and publish, on IREV, the accreditation data on the BVAS, on election day.  If that had been done in Osun, Nigerians would have known the number of voters accredited for that election, polling unit by polling unit, using BVAS.

The primary source of authentication is the BVAS machine.

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