Govt insists BVAS a game changer in Nigeria polls, civil society calls for NIN addition
The reactions trailing the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is Nigeria’s general elections of 25 February and 18 March have been mixed, but the federal government insists the system has been a game changer in the country’s electoral experience.
Federal Communication Minister Lai Mohammed told press last weekend that although the BVAS handled a limited number of accredited voters, it was able to eliminate double voting and other forms of identity fraud, Nairametrics reports.
The BVAS uses fingerprints and face biometrics to identity and accredit voters upon presentation of their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC).
Mohammed said the biometric accreditation system is a “game changer” because it confirms the total number of persons who are actually accredited to vote.
“With the BVAS, it is now not possible for you to vote twice because your biometrics are captured,” said the Minister, adding that it created some marked improvement in the electoral process.
So, while the federal government is praising the biometric voting system for its efficiency, civil society groups believe there is room for improvement, in order areas maybe, in order to render the country’s electoral process more credible and acceptable.
According to Nigerians United for Peace (NUP), a umbrella grouping of civil society organizations, the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) must undertake further reforms in order to reduce incidents of fraud in incoming elections, writes The Nation.
One of such reforms, as suggested by NUP, is for the electoral law to be amended so that the National Identification Number (NIN) details of every voter is added to their voter’s card.
Speaking at the close of a meeting with stakeholders to review the 2023 election in Nigeria, NUP said making the NIN a requirement for voter registration and adding the same to the voter’s card will also help address the situation whereby unscrupulous individuals have more than one voter’s card.
At least one independent observer has echoed the government’s claims that biometrics helped reduce fraud in the election.
Liberia biometric voter registration begins, with hiccups
In a related election story from sub-regional neighbours Liberia, the pioneer biometric voter registration in the country kicked off on 20 March and citizens have been called upon to turn out massively for the exercise ahead of general elections in October.
Daily observer reports that the process started in six counties concerned with the first phase of the registration, but not without early complaints of hiccups which may negatively affect the process if not quickly addressed by NEC.
In the meantime, a special message ahead of the start of the registration exercise, from President George Weah described voter registration as the only legitimate means through which citizens will be able to exercise the civic duty of electing their next President and parliamentarians of choice.
“I call on all citizens, 18 years and above, to register in order to be able to vote. The National Elections Commission has said from March 20 to April 9, 2023, citizens of Gbarpolu, Bomi, Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado Counties will register to vote,” Weah said in a statement published by the presidency.
He added: “And from April 21 to May 11, 2023, the citizens of Bong, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Lofa, Maryland, Nimba, Rivercess, River Gee, and Sinoe Counties will do theirs.”
Meanwhile, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced that the last consignment of biometric voter registration equipment arrived in the country last weekend. A total of 1,130 biometric kits came in via the Roberts International Airport, according to Heritage News.
Also, before the voter registration began, the NEC unveiled a personal data entry portal for potential registrants to pre-enrol before going to registration centers for their biometric capture.
In a press release, the NEC said the process, which is optional nonetheless, is meant to reduce the amount of processing time required to complete the registration process at NEC offices.