Innovation, technology driving voter inclusion, credible elections – INEC Chairman
In June this year, INEC introduced a special gadget designed in-house by the Commission’s Engineers but fabricated abroad. It performs a variety of functions including physical registration of voters, fingerprint and facial authentication on election day and uploading of the polling unit result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal.
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is recording many breakthroughs with the intelligent deployment of innovation, technology and resourcefulness in the execution of its mandates to expand voter inclusion as well as conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country.
Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of INEC said this during an interactive session with members of the elite Guild of Corporate Online Publisher (GOCOP) in Lagos on Wednesday. He said that the INEC innovation strategy contributed immensely to the huge success of the recent governorship elections in Anambra State against many odds.
While thanking voters in Anambra for their patience and understanding during the elections, Yakubu explained that the new Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployed to fantastic accliam was specially designed by its ICT team to deliver more efficient, real-time functionality and a much more cost-efficient rate compared to previous technologies such as the ubiquitous card-reader which had to be connected to a laptop.
He also gave some of the recent strides achieved by INEC to include the following:
Expansion of Voter Access to Polling Units
For 25 years, between 1996 and 2021, the number of polling units in Nigeria remained the same, despite the progressive increase in the number of the voting population over the years. For instance, in 1999, the number of registered voters was 57,938,945, 60,823,022 in 2003; 61,567,036 in 2007; 67,422,005 in 2015 and 84,004,084 in 2019. Yet, the number of PUs remained the same. While the law gives INEC the power to create new PUs and allocate voters to them, all attempts made by the Commission to do so within the period were met with spurious allegations based on political considerations. Following several unsuccessful attempts to create additional PUs, the Commission established Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements across the States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). After wide-ranging consultations with stakeholders and fieldwork by our officials, the 56,872 Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements were converted to full-fledged Poling Units in April 2021 bringing the total number of PUs in Nigeria to 176,846. The Polling Units can be viewed at (https://www.inecnigeria.org/elections/polling-units/).
New Innovations in Technology
Determined to deepen the use of technology and reduce human intervention in the critical stages of the electoral process, the Commission introduced new innovations. A few of them are identified as follows:
Submission and Processing of Nominations Forms and Other Applications
The Commission has been discouraging human intervention in the electoral process. Since the 2019 General Election, the following activities are now conducted either partially or entirely online through dedicated portals:
- Voter pre-registration;
- Nomination of candidates for election by political parties;
- Submission of list of polling and collation agents by political parties;
- Accreditation of national and international observers for election; and
- Accreditation of media organisations for elections.
Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and Launch of Online Registration Portal
You will recall that the Commission often undertakes a fresh registration of eligible voters with every general election until 2010 when the first reliable biometric register of voters was compiled. Thereafter, the practice is to undertake intermittent registration of voters on the eve of major elections.
However, in April 2017, this Commission for the first time began the implementation of the registration of voters on a continuous basis as provided in the Electoral Act. By the time the CVR was suspended in August 2018 to prepare for the 2019 General Election, a total of 14,283,734 new voters had been registered and added to the national register of voters, increasing the overall number to 84, 004 084. However, the CVR could not resume as planned after the general election due in part to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the earlier part of 2020. In our determination to serve Nigerians better and in response to repeated calls by stakeholders, the Commission introduced a dedicated portal for online registration on 28th June 2021. This allows intending registrants to commence the process online by filling the forms, upload their pictures and required documents, and then make an appointment on the web portal for a date and time to visit an INEC State or Local Government Area (LGA) office to give their fingerprints and complete the registration. In addition, those who are already registered as voters can carry out all the other activities such as transfers, correction of personal details and replacement of damaged or defaced Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) online. Nigerians have fully embraced and are taking full advantage of the services available on the portal. The Commission has also been updating Nigerians every week on new development since the CVR started. As of 22nd November 2021, the CVR platform had recorded a total of 4,297,494 fresh registrants while 1,856,771 registrants have validated their application
iii. The INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED)
In June this year, INEC introduced a special gadget designed in-house by the Commission’s Engineers but fabricated abroad. It performs a variety of functions including physical registration of voters, fingerprint and facial authentication on election day and uploading of the polling unit result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. While the device was used as the INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED) at the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration in June this year, it first was deployed for the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State on 11th September 2021 and later for the recently concluded Anambra Governorship election. In both elections, the equipment performed the functions of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) and the Z-Pad.
INEC Result Viewing Portal
In our effort to engender transparency in the electoral process, the Commission unveiled the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal to make available for public view copies of the polling unit election result sheet, known as Form EC8A on Election Day. By Clicking on http://inecelectionresults.com and creating an account and password, any interested Nigerian can have access to the portal and view polling unit results are they are uploaded live. The Nasarawa Central Constituency bye election held on 8th August was the first to have its polling units’ results uploaded to the portal, followed by the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections. However, before the introduction of IReV, the Commission had, during the 2017 Anambra State Governorship election, introduced the pasting of Form EC 60E, also known as the “People’s Result Sheet” at Polling Units, where citizens could view the result of each polling unit.