The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has listed its operational challenges as far as the 2022 Electoral Act is concerned.
Delivering a lecture titled ‘INEC and Electoral Act 2022: Operational Challenges and Emerging Risks,’ INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said voters register was one of its operational challenges.
The 2022 Electoral Act: Emerging Challenges and Improvements; a workshop for selected journalists”, was organised by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Abuja.
Okoye said the commission has embarked on the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, adding that there were so many communities that were still inaccessible to INEC registration officers.
He however said the commission has further devolved the CVR to its registration areas on a rotational basis.
“The commission is determined to register all eligible registrants, but will not expose its staff to unnecessary danger. The commission will roll out and roll back depending on the security situation in different parts of the country. However, the issue of multiple and double registrations has been a huge challenge in the commission,” Okoye said.
On the issue of multiple registrants, Okoye explained that those that have lost their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), rather than apply for a new one, ignorantly register afresh in violation of the law.
Those with PVCs that are defaced or damaged simply apply for new ones. Some that are on transfer or want to transfer their voting locations simply apply for a new one. All these are in violation of the law and the commission does not have the capacity to prosecute all the violators and I am sure that the country does not have enough correctional facilities to house a large number of violators,” Okoye stated.
Okoye also said the lack of an organised database of births and deaths in the country is a challenge to INEC regarding the issue of voters’ register.
He noted that Nigeria lacks reliable data on births and deaths, adding that Nigerians are sometimes unwilling to come forward and provide information on deaths.
While it is easy to use newspaper obituaries to delete the names of prominent people who are deceased, it is next to impossibility for the commission to do a thorough job without a reliable data of deaths and births,” Okoye also said.
Another area listed by Okoye was operational challenges relating to the use of technology, saying that rolling out a new technology has its own challenges.
As some of you are aware, the commission has introduced new and creative changes in the enumeration of voters; the party nomination processes and the conduct of elections. The commission is currently conducting the CVR both physically and online using the new INEC Voter Enrolment Device (“the IVED”). The commission has introduced an online nomination portal through which political parties upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates.
“The commission has also introduced an online portal through which international and domestic observers and the media apply for accreditation. The commission introduced the INEC Result Viewing Portal (iRev) through which polling unit level results are uploaded to a result viewing portal in real-time. The Commission has also introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (“the BVAS”) for voter accreditation and authentication. The commission is firmly of the view that greater use of technology in the electoral process will to a large extent reduce human interference in the voting, counting and collation process,” Okoye further said.
Other operational challenges listed by Okoye included areas such as logistics, deployment and provision of security, training, political parties refusing to comply with the provisions of the law, deployment of polling agents, visually impaired and incapacitated voters, transfer of results, among others.
On emerging risks, Okoye stated that technology is the new enemy for election riggers.
He stated that with the introduction of the BVAS as the dominant means of accreditation, the commission has recorded incidents of stealing, smashing or destruction of the BVAS.
“The BVAS is the new enemy of those that inflate election results and simply tick the voters’ register. We have recorded incidents of abduction of Presiding Officers and they’re being forced to query the BVAS and replace already thump printed ballot papers with fake ones. There is the risk of power failure leading to the non-charging of the BVAS or deliberate sabotage of the BVAS. Some of the properly and duly trained ad-hoc staff may not turn up on election day; necessitating their being replaced with those not fully and properly trained,” Okoye also said.
In his welcome remark, the Resident Representative of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Vladimir Kreck, said he believed that the 2022 Electoral Act contained a number of checks and balances that were not in place, especially the legalization of electronic transmission of results which is a very important improvement.
“And I believe also that if it is possible to have checks between manual transmission and electronic transmission, probably results will be more credible than in the past,” Kreck said.