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Nigerian EC criticized over failures of biometric kits intended for 2023 presidentials

Nigerian EC criticized over failures of biometric kits intended for 2023 presidentials
 

Polls conducted last Saturday in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) to elect Local Government Area executives has come under sharp criticism by stakeholders for multiple reasons including the malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) – a biometric voter accreditation platform hoped to be in national use for 2023’s presidential elections, according to local media reports.

Premium Times reports that the election witnessed many hitches not only with the malfunctioning of the biometric voter verification equipment, but also because officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed up late for the exercise in some polling stations.

Per the report, some INEC Registration Area Technicians were seen trying to repair some of the BVAS machines that were not working in a number of polling stations monitored.

Punch in its own report on the subject quoted Nigerians who recounted their experiences concerning the use of the BVAS. Babatunji Olaifa said he was asked by the election official at his polling station to smile before his photo was taken for verification. He said he had never heard of such a thing in his life since he started voting in 1983.

He said the back-and-forth exchange with the polling official saw him not finally voting because he was unable to “smile for INECs camera.”

“I find it both reprehensible and outright unnecessary for INEC to stipulate more than the presentation of a voter’s card by the person whose picture is on the Voters’ Card as a form of verification each election cycle. I am trying to imagine how many potential voters have been disenfranchised for this same reason who can’t or will not speak out,” Olaifa told Punch.

Another voter said the entire voter authentication process looked unserious.

“The whole process looks like a child’s play. The INEC officials told the voters including myself to show their teeth during accreditation before we were captured. I was lucky to be captured but some had to try over and over again. I am sure this is due to challenges they faced with BVAS. I understand this is new but we need to work more on the BVAS before the 2023 elections,” said the voter.

Criticism of the BVAS in Saturday’s election also came from civil society groups which have called out INEC on the issue and urged the electoral body to work extra hard to avoid such glitches in future polls.

Yiaga Africa, a civil society organization that observed the election, also decried the malfunctioning of the biometric voter accreditation equipment in its report, according to Vanguard.

BVAS is a new system introduced by INEC to verify voter identity at polling stations using both fingerprint and face biometrics, and it replaces the Smart Card Reader which used only fingerprints to authenticate voters in the past.

The new system has been trialed in a few elections lately, though not without glitches, but INEC looks poised to deploy the system for next year’s general elections in the country.

NIN verification service restored

In a separate development, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) said over the weekend that its national identification number (NIN) verification service portal (NVS) is back to full functioning, writes Vanguard.

The service had been temporarily suspended when the system broke down and had to undergo maintenance.

The NIMC in a statement issued Saturday said the restoration of the NVS adds to the tokenization platform both of which can be used by those seeking to verify their NINs to access services.

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