From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has lamented hoodlums snatching five of its newly introduced technology, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployed during the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State.
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure in Abuja on Wednesday in his remarks at a meeting to welcome the three new National Commissioners and swearing-in of a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) deployed to Zamfara State.
Prof Mahmood noted that though the result of the pilot of the new technology deployed in the 84 polling units was indeed very encouraging, the Commission however encountered some challenges.
The challenges according him, include the difficulty in matching the voter’s live image against the image on the register due to the quality of pictures of some voters arising from previous vater registration, poor lighting of some polling units and the theft of BVAS by hoodiums.
Prof Mahmood noted that though the Commission has reported the incident to the relevant security agencies for investigation, nevertheless, the Commission will address these challenges including the installation of a mechanism to disable and track the device in the event of theft by hoodiums.
His words: “Nigenars may recall that the Commission made history on August 8, 2020 by successfully conducting the first election in the context of the COVID-19 pandernic in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election. In that election, the Commission also pilated the first real-time uploading of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (RV).
“Since then, results of 26 more elections have been uploaded to the portal. Only last weekend, we piloted yet another innovation in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State.
“We introduced the BVAS for efficient human recognition through a biometric verification mechanism using both fingerprint and facial recognition of voters. The result of the pilot in the 84 polling units was very encouraging indeed.
“It took an average of just one minute for the device to correctly locate the voter in the system and another two minutes to authenticate a voter. In terms of the ruggedness of the device and its battery life, no single BVAS was replaced due to discharge of battery throughout the voting period.
“Most importantly, the device was able to guarantee the credibility of voter accreditation by preventing the incidents of multiple voting or the use of stolen PVCs to vote. All voters were accredited electronically using the BVAS, The use of the incident form was eliminated: The Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye election was historic in this respect,” he commended the new technology.
Enumerating the challenges, he said: “However, there were a few challenges. Matching the voter’s live image against the image on the register was difficult in a few instances due to the quality of pictures of some voters arising from previous vater registration. Secondly, some polling units were not bright enough when taking the photo for the facial authentication. “Thirdly, there was the age-old problem of thuggery during elections. Our officials were attacked and five BVAS devices snatched by hoodlums,” he lamented.
Prof Mahmood further added: “although this did not affect the elections because we deployed extra devices as part of our contingency measures. Incident is being investigated by the Police: nevertheless, we wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will address these challenges including the installation of a mechanism to disable and track the device in the event of theft by hoodiums.
“This mechanism will be activated ahead of the forthcoming Anambra State Governorship election,” the Commission promised.
The three new National Commissioners that sworn-in by the President include Prof Abdullahi Zuru, a Chemist and former Vice Chancellor of Kebbi State University and Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Prof Sani Adam, a lawyer and former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja and Dr Baba Bila, a Chartered Accountant and former Bursar of the University of Benin.
“Similarly, I have just sworn-in a new REC. He is Sa’idu Ahmad, a Prof of English Literature from Bayero University Kano. He fills the vacancy for Jigawa State, being the only State without a REC following the completion of tenure of Abdullahi Kaugama, an experienced administrator who had earlier served as Secretary to the Commission.
“At the moment, the policy of the Commission is to deploy RECS within their geo-political zones, but they will not be posted to their States of origin. Accordingly, Prof Ahmad is hereby deployed as the REC for Zamfara State.
“All four appointees bring to the Commission their vast knowledge and experience as scholars and administrators. I am confident that they will join us in further extending the frontiers of free and fair elections in Nigeria.
“In addition to adherence to the provisions of the law, our success in this arduous task also draws from our integrity as election managers.
“We must be strict in the application of the law, firm in handling the public trust bestowed on us and fair in our dealings with political parties and candidates. We must remember that in discharging our responsibilities, Nigeria and Nigerians must always come first.
“We must abide by our oaths of office to defend the choice made by Nigerians at the polls in all elections and continue to protect the sanctity of the vote without which democratic election is meaningless,” he charged the new arrivals.
Warning them further, Prof Mahmood said: “Let me draw the attention of the new National and Resident Electoral Commissioners to the reality of serving in INEC. The task ahead is challenging but it is also a national call to service. It is important to quickly settle in and familiarize yourselves with the rules, procedures and responsibilities of your office.
“Let me reiterate once again that you should always bear in mind that a credible election draws heavily from the integrity of the election managers, I urge you to join us in raising the bar even higher.”
Responding, the new entrants noted: “We will not disappoint the confidence Mr President reposed on us by nominating us as Commissioners. We also thank the National Assembly for confirming us as worthy enough for the job.
“We will ensure honesty and transparency in the discharge of our duties. We will uphold the credibility of elections in the country,” they promised.