March 11, 2015 -
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the successful field-testing of biometric card readers, which are set to be used to validate voters in the March 28 and April 11 general elections, according to a report by Premium Times.
INEC said that the exercise, held in 12 states spanning six geo-political zones of Nigeria, was successful and the biometric technology will help combat fraud in the upcoming elections.
The electoral body said it successfully fulfilled its objective of verifying the authenticity of the Permanent Voter Cards presented by voters.
Despite this, INEC admitted that there were challenges in confirming fingerprints, with only 59 percent of voters’ fingerprints being successfully authenticated during testing.
The commission alleviated concerns of disenfranchisement of voters, saying provision for manual validation had long been implemented for these situations.
“The commission, in agreement with registered political parties, had provided in the approved Guidelines for the conduct of the 2015 elections that where biometric authentication of a legitimate holder of a genuine PVC becomes challenging, there could be physical authentication of the person and completion of an Incident Form, to allow the person to vote,” said INEC spokesperson Kayode Idowu.
The test showed the card readers could help generate important data for research and planning purposes, said INEC.
“The Smart Card Readers provide disaggregated data of accredited voters in male/female and elderly/youth categories – a disaggregation that is vital for research and planning purposes, but which INEC until now had been unable to achieve. The demonstration on Saturday fully served this objective,” said INEC.
The card readers were able to transmit the data of all accredited voters from polling units to the commission’s central server, however, the test-run in Ebonyi State on March 14 since the state recorded that highest number of cases of failed fingerprint validation, said INEC.
Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of civil society organizations that was on hand at the test run, supports INEC on the use of the card readers and permanent voter cards for the general elections.
“On the basis of the test and assurances of improvement, Situation Room calls on the full use and deployment of the Card Readers and PVCs for the 2015 Nigeria general elections,” said the group, adding that “the card readers functioned properly with occasional connectivity issues and the verification process of the PVC was almost seamless…”
Situation Room did, however, urge INEC to improve on specific areas in which it experienced some challenges during the mock election.
These areas include voter education and civic orientation, biometric authentication process, transportation of electoral personnel (particularly in the rural areas), and “issue of discrepancies of details on the PVC and the card reader in a way that the card reader can be reconfigured in a timely manner so as to avoid disenfranchisement of any voter.”
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria said it expects 34 million bank customers in Nigeria to be enrolled in the biometric data capture policy and have their bank verification numbers by the end of June 2015, according to a report by Daily Trust.
Launched on February 14, 2014 by past CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the BVN initiative is designed to register all financial customers using biometric technology for identification purposes.
Once an individual’s biometrics have been properly captured, he or she is provided with a BVN.
The initiative is designed to protect bank customers, lower fraud and further reinforce the Nigerian banking system.