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Biometric device failures tainted credibility of Nigeria’s 2023 elections: report

Categories Biometrics News  |  Elections  |  ID for All
Biometric device failures tainted credibility of Nigeria’s 2023 elections: report

A final report of the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) on Nigeria’s 2023 presidential and national assembly elections says failures of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) biometric devices and the online results viewing portal of the elections agency negatively affected the overall credibility and transparency of the polls.

The report of 108 pages, released last week, details shortcomings noticed during the elections, the strong points that made some things work, as well as areas where significant improvement is required in order to render the outcome of future elections better.

“The introduction of new technologies could play a significant role in improving voters’ trust in the credibility and transparency of the voter registration, counting and results transmission processes. Unfortunately, there were some significant shortcomings with regard to the deployment of these technologies in these elections,” said Thabo Mbeki, former South African President and Chair of the COG.

The COG notes that while the country’s elections management agency (INEC) was not “sufficiently forthcoming” regarding the procurement process of electoral technologies, it also did not do enough to properly test the equipment before they were deployed.

“The lack of adequate testing of the technologies, and the limited training of polling staff, were likely contributing factors in the failure of some Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices and the IReV (INEC Result Viewing) portal on election day,” the report’s executive summary states.

“INEC should consider greater training on BVAS for polling agents,” the report recommends, adding that the election agency should in future elections also “consider the introduction of alternative offline back-up options for BVAS.”

Apart from the technology aspects of the elections, the report also makes a number of recommendations which touch on various aspects including legal framework and electoral administration, issues which can improve participation and inclusion, as well as political campaigns and media coverage.

In one recommendation concerning biometric voter registration, the COG suggests that the laws be revised to allow voter ID cards to be issued immediately after registration.

“To reduce the gap between the number who register and the number who pick up their PVCs [Permanent Voter’s Cards], INEC should consider amendments to the process that would allow for the instant issuance/collection of the PVC at the time of registration,” the Group says.

“INEC could also consider extending timelines, increasing the number of distribution centers, employing mobile units and targeting outreach to marginalized groups and voters with limited mobility.”

The biometric device failures and other issues raised in the COG report are the same issues raised previously by some civil society groups including Yiaga Africa in their post-election analyses.

However, the government has maintained that the BVAS is among the factors that contributed to Nigeria holding what it says were the most credible elections in its history.

Explaining biometric voter registration and biometric voter authentication

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