The Independent National Electoral Commission has assured Nigerians that the bimodal voter accreditation system will ensure credible and transparent 2023 general elections as the BVAS machines have never failed.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made this known on Saturday while assessing activities at polling units in the Federal Capital Territory where the mock accreditation of voters was held using the BVAS machines.
The exercise was held nationwide.
He also said arrangements had been made to provide spare machines for the elections.
“In the two polling units we have visited so far, there is no report of failure. The machines have performed optimally and this is the report we are getting so far nationwide.
“We have also made contingency arrangements like we will do on election day, that there is a spare machine and in the unlikely event of a malfunction, we will be able to respond and fix the machines,’’ Yakubu said.
According to him, reports from the mock exercise nationwide, it took less than 30 seconds to accredit a voter, assuring that accreditation and electronic transmission of results during the general elections would be done seamlessly.
“The speed is good and also the authentication is good. The BVAS has never failed anywhere. I would not like to comment on the Osun (governorship election) issue because it is a matter in court and is sub-judice.
“However, in every situation, the commission learns and carries the experience from what has happened to improve the processes for the next election. We have learned some lessons from what happened and one of the lessons is to be able to transmit the accreditation data,’’ the News Agency of Nigeria quoted him as saying.
The INEC chairman said that the commission created a new uniform resource locator on its results viewing portal where both the accreditation and results could be viewed.
Yakubu said the mock exercise was organised to further test the integrity of the machines to be used as it was the first time they were being deployed nationwide.
He explained that for the mock exercise, INEC identified 436 polling units nationwide on the equality of states and based on two local governments per senatorial district, while four polling units were used in each local government area where the exercise was held, making a total of 16 polling units per state.
“We are going to transmit both the accreditation figures and the results on election day. We are giving assurance to Nigerians that on election day, both the accredited data and the actual votes cast will be transmitted simultaneously and accurately,” the INEC boss stressed.
“Voters are verified using their PVCs and then authenticated using their fingerprint or facial recognition on the machines on the basis of which they will be given the ballot papers on election day after successful accreditation.
However, the mock accreditation exercise was affected by a low turnout of eligible voters in major cities across Anambra State.
One of our correspondents who visited some of the designated polling units in Onitsha, Obosi, Nnewi and Awka, on Saturday, observed a low turnout of registered voters as of the time of filing this report, though the INEC officials seen at some of the centres visited said the BVAS machines worked seamlessly.
But it was gathered that many registered voters could not turn out for the exercise at the designated centres due to the scarcity of the naira.
A resident, Mrs Josephine Uko, who commended the process, said the ongoing cash scarcity forced the people to keep vigil at the automated teller machines centres of different commercial banks.
Uko said, “The reason for the low turnout is because people are at the various bank ATM centres queuing and searching for cash. Many people are not aware that there is a mock accreditation exercise going on today.
“The timing of the exercise is wrong; right now, what is paramount on the minds of the people is where they will get the cash that has been scarce in the past few weeks and this exercise is just not on our agenda right now.”
An INEC assistant electoral officer at one of the designated centres in the Onitsha South Local Government Area of the state, Mr Reginald Onyeukwu, said the exercise was also aimed at proving the efficacy of the BVAS machines.
He, however, expressed disappointment with the low turnout in some polling units visited, insisting that adequate sensitisation was carried out in each local government area of the state.
In Lagos, the mock accreditation was conducted in 12 polling units across six local government areas of the state.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, said the functionality of BVAS in accrediting intending voters was another test that INEC was ready for the forthcoming elections.
“We have been to six stations, two each in Surulere, Somolu and Ikeja LGAs; so far, the machines are working effectively and there is no challenge or problem, and people have confirmed this.
“The essence of this is to show our people that BVAS will work. If politicians will allow us to do our work, we will work effectively. We don’t want politicians to compromise our staff (members) in bypassing the BVAS,” Agbaje added.
The REC, who said that it would be difficult for the BVAS to be faulty because they were all new, said that the commission had backups to arrest unforeseen circumstances.
A registered voter Polling Unit 035, Ward 2, located at Enitan Primary School, Aguda, Mr Afeez Sulaiman, said, “This process is very fast, it took me about two minutes to get accredited when I presented my card,”
However, a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain in Somolu, Mr Kazeem Jolaosho, noted that the machines failed to identify the fingerprints of some voters.
“The fingerprint identification through BVAS is not without hitches, unlike the facial accreditation. We want INEC to work on this, Jolaosho told NAN.
Low turnout in Oyo, Ogun, Edo
In Oyo State, exercise recorded a large turnout of registered voters in some of the polling units, while a few others recorded low turnouts.
Speaking on the process, a resident, Mr Oladeji Adekunle, who was accredited at PU 017, Oba Akinbiyi High School, Mokola, urged the electoral body to intensify efforts in sensitising voters to come out on the election days.
Adekunle, who observed that turnout for the mock accreditation was low at his polling unit, however, lauded INEC for the exercise.
In Edo, the accreditation took place in six local government areas and 12 polling units across the state.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Obo Efanga, who visited some of the polling units, said, “We have been using BVAS in the last two years in other states. The mock accreditation is to let people know how BVAS works and for people to see how it works.
“This is the third polling unit we are visiting and the mock accreditation is going on smoothly. It is also an opportunity for people to identify their new polling units so that when they come on election day, they know where to go.”
On the low turnout of voters for the exercise, Efanga said, “It is not compulsory that everybody must come out to do this. But the few that will come, we use them to test that the system is working well.”
In Ogun, one of our correspondents observed that there was a low turnout in most of the centres visited, including Centenary hall, Ake ward 1 in Abeokuta South, and Olowu’s Palace in Oke-Ago Owu, in Abeokuta North.
The exercise was conducted in Abeokuta South, Abeokuta North, Ado, Odo/Ota, Ogun Waterside, Sagamu and Egbado South local government areas of the state.
But the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Niyi Ijalaye, applauded the operation level of the BVAS.
“For us, BVAS is working and we hope it will be like that all over the state. Our representatives are all over the state, in all the locations where we are having the mock elections, “ he said.