By Michael Oche
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it will be deploying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for fingerprint and facial authentication during accreditation durijg the November 6 Anambra State governorship election.
The Commission expressed confidence that this multi-layer process will eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s Permanent Voter Card (PVC) during the election.
It said where the voter fails both the fingerprint and facial authentication, he/she will not be allowed to vote, adding that, no voter will be allowed to caste their vote without electronic authentication.
Speaking on Monday in Abuja at the third quarterly meeting with leaders of political parties, INEC Chairman, professor Mahmood Yakubu said the Commission has been continuously innovating on how to strengthen the credibility of voter accreditation and result management during elections in Nigeria.
He said, “As always, the deployment of appropriate technology is crucial and desirable. The introduction of the machine-readable PVC combined and Smart Card Reader (SCR) were important innovations. So too is the uploading of polling unit results in real-time on Election Day. The reality is that technology always advances with the passage of time. Consequently, the Commission must keep pace with the ever-changing world of global information and communication technology. We are at one such crossroad at the moment.
“For some time, many stakeholders, including leaders of political parties, have called on the Commission to strengthen the voter accreditation process during elections, especially with reference to the use of incident form where the SCR fails to authenticate the fingerprints of a voter. Such concern is legitimate given the fact that the SCR successfully verifies any card that belongs to the polling unit for which it is configured irrespective of who presents it. Their apprehension, therefore, is that using the incident form to cover those whose fingerprints are not authenticated by the SCR, a voter may be able to use another person’s PVC to vote during an election.
“To address this concern, the Commission attempted to introduce the facial biometric authentication during accreditation of the voters using the Z-Pad tablet to complement the fingerprint process through the Card Reader before the Edo Governorship election in September 2020.
“However, the Commission was not entirely satisfied with the pilot held in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election a month earlier in August 2020. We therefore suspended the idea to enable us to do some more work. Over the last one year, we reviewed the situation and we think we have found the appropriate technology to address it. The Z-pad was therefore only used to upload Polling Unit results to the IReV portal during elections.
“The functionality of the Z-pad has now been integrated into the IVED currently used for voter registration. On Election Day, the same device will used for the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for fingerprint authentication during accreditation and where it fails for facial authentication. We believe that this multi-layer process will eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s PVC. Where the voter fails both the fingerprint and facial authentication, he/she will not be allowed to vote. In other words, no electronic authentication, no voting.
“We are convinced that the new machine is robust enough to further guarantee the credibility of voter authentication and transparent management of results during elections. Accordingly, the Commission intends to carry out a pilot exercise using the new device in Delta State during the Isoko South 1 State Assembly constituency bye-election holding this weekend (Saturday 11th September 2021). The BVAS will now perform the functions of both the SCR and Z-Pad in the bye-election. Thereafter, it will be deployed in the Anambra Governorship election in November. There will be a presentation of the new device and a practical demonstration of its functions to Chairmen and leaders of political parties at this meeting.”
The INEC boss also lamented conflicting court judgments leading to the Anambra election, saying it is becoming a thing of concern for the Commission.
He said some of the decided cases are making the work of the Commission difficult.