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Biometrics reduced fraud in 2023 Nigerian elections, analyst argues

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Biometrics reduced fraud in 2023 Nigerian elections, analyst argues
 

Amid a barrage of criticism over vote credibility, political scientist Abiodun Fatai posits that the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), to a large extent, contributed to enhancing the credibility of the 25 February presidential and national assembly elections in Nigeria.

In a discussion with The Conversation, Fatai notes that the failure by the election management body (INEC) to transmit the results electronically in real-time as it promised before the polls was a matter of an operational lapse.

Unlike in previous elections like of those of 2007 where voter turnout in some states was far above the number of people who actually registered, Fatai says that was not the case this year as the BVAS considerably eliminated multiple voter registration and ensured that only those who passed the biometric verification test at polling stations were allowed to cast their vote.

“The biometric technology actually worked. It has eliminated multiple voter registrations. If your biometrics are not captured, you can no longer vote. These are improvements. More importantly, the goal of technology was to enhance the quality and integrity of the elections and reduce electoral fraud. This was achieved,” says Fatai.

He said most of the glitches seen in the elections were operational failures which have little or nothing to do with the technology employed by INEC.

Expanding on this point, the political analyst says technology is operated by humans and some of the failures were a result of INEC’s lack of capacity to deploy the technology to optimum level.

He mentioned other constraints such as limited internet coverage across the country.

On what Nigeria must do to improve the digitization of its future elections, Fatai says not only should INEC strictly follow the provisions of the law, it should also ensure that its personnel are properly trained with the necessary skills to use the available technology.

He adds that Nigeria must also upgrade its broadband network to improve connectivity, get more technical expertise, and above all increase political will for a fully digital election experience.

These views from Fatai notwithstanding, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has urged the courts to render justice to Nigerians after INEC failed to use the BVAS technology as it said it would.

According to the CNPP, the election umpire promised before the polls to transmit results onto the portal using the BVAS devices in polling units where there was no internet connection, as long as the BVAS machines were connected to the internet.

“It is shocking that INEC failed to upload the results to its IREV servers even in urban cities where there were sufficient Internet network connections across the country,” the CNPP said in a statement quoted by News Ghana.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, has congratulated Nigerians following the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the presidential election winner, but said it was adding its voice to those of other “international observers in urging INEC to improve in the areas that need the most attention ahead of the March 11 gubernatorial elections.”

Ghana expects to register 500K voters yearly

In an election-related story, the Chairperson of the Ghana Electoral Commission (EC) Jean Mensa says the agency is sure to register between 450,000 and 500,000 voters annually as the number of Ghana Card holders is said to have increased.

Mensa was speaking while briefing lawmakers on the EC’s reform plan to make the Ghana Card, the national biometric ID card, the only ID document required for the country’s biometric voter registration exercise, reports GH Headlines.

She said they had received assurances from the National Identification Authority (NIA) that over 17 million Ghanaians are registered for the Ghana Card and 16 million of them now have the credential. The population is around 34 million with over 40 percent under voting age.

“On the strength of these numbers, we are convinced that the 1.5 million applicants we are expecting to register by the end of 2023, following the last registration exercise in 2020, are likely to already possess the Ghana Card,” Mensa told the lawmakers as quoted by the publication.

Mensa also explained some of the reforms undertaken by the EC over the years in improving the integrity, credibility and transparency of elections in Ghana.

Meanwhile in South Africa, eligible voters were involved in an intensive online registration exercise for the country’s upcoming national and provincial elections. The process ran from 20 February and 3 March, per SA News.

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