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Nigeria may prosecute officials behind invalid entries in biometric voter registration

Nigeria may prosecute officials behind invalid entries in biometric voter registration

The over one million Nigerians identified as having been involved in irregular practices in the course of the ongoing biometric Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise may face the heavy arm of the law if the election management body INEC so decides, Punch reports.

INEC said recently that its biometric voter system had identified 1.1 million irregular entries as a result of either multiple registrations or registration with incomplete requirements between June 2021 and January 2022, and that such entries have been expunged from the system.

Speaking on the matter, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said the decision on whether the registrants will be prosecuted will be taken at the end of the ongoing voter registration drive due to end on 30 June. He says even INEC staff who will be found complicit in this practice will also not be spared by the law.

According to Yakubu, these irregularities related to voter registration contravene Section 114 (b) of the Electoral Act 2022.

Corroborating the INEC Chairman, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, told Punch in an earlier interview that the body will determine what to do with the concerned registrants when the time comes.

“The commission has not ruled out the prosecution of multiple registrants. The commission will complete the registration before taking a position on the issue of multiple registrants,” Okoye was quoted as saying.

“As pointed out by the chairman of the commission, some of the registrants did it out of ignorance, while some thought that our systems are not robust enough to detect them. Prosecuting 1,126,359 multiple registrants for the first and second quarters alone is not a tea party.”

Meanwhile, Okoye also says there will henceforth be no multiple voting during elections in Nigeria thanks to the recently-introduced Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System, a platform that requires fingerprint and face biometrics to authenticate voters at polling stations.

The system, which replaced the Permanent Voter Card Readers, has been used in a few elections since it was introduced, although that has not been without complaints of system failures.

INEC says the BVAS will be used during the governorship election in the State of Ekiti on 18 June, 2022, and a good number of the machines have been delivered to the commission. The electoral body had said last year that it may require up to 200 thousand of the devices for next year’s general elections.

Importance of bank ID highlighted

A report by Technext has highlighted the benefits of the biometric bank verification number (BVN) in Nigeria as the number of enrollments for the IDs reached 54 million this month, according to figures from the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS).

Per the report, the BVN has three major benefits as it can be used to protect customers’ bank accounts from unauthorized access; helps fights against identity theft by reducing exposure to fraud, and that it is accepted by all banks across the country’s banking ecosystem as a means of unique identification.

These benefits notwithstanding, Technext highlights a number of instances which demonstrate that the BVN rules are not effectively enforced by the Central Bank of Nigeria, citing a case where Nigerian lawmakers in February 2022 called for a probe after it was discovered that 1.2 trillion Naira (US$2.8 billion) was lodged in 45 million accounts whose holders have no bank ID.

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