2023 Elections: How INEC Brought Its Integrity Into Question


The charm of the February 25 was the introduction of technology to the electoral process.

The Independent National () introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Result Viewing (IReV) portal, which, according to the commission, would promote transparency.

Following the success of the new tech innovations in the Ekiti and State elections, the commission evoked the peoples' trust and high expectations for a more transparent and inclusive electoral process.

This trust and expectations were, however, dashed, following record-high irregularities, voter suppression and disenfranchisement in a highly anticipated presidential election.

The presidential election has come and gone, but INEC continues to grapple with frayed integrity and citizen's distrust after failing to demonstrate the transparency it claimed the new technologies would bring.

On every side of the divide, the commission has met stiff criticism. On social media, young people have continued to trend hashtags like #Occupy INEC, #INECisCompromised and #INECObeyCourtOrder in efforts to demand accountability from the commission.

Peter Obi and , presidential candidates of the (LP) and the People's Democratic Party () respectively, with separate ex parte applications, asked to be allowed to inspect the electoral materials used in the conduct of the general election.

Following a protest led by its presidential candidate at the INEC headquarters in , the PDP has called for the resignation of Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, for “subverting the will of Nigerians in the February 25, 2023 presidential and national assembly elections”.

During the February 25 election and the post-election period, INEC fed Nigerians' distrust in institutions with its lack of accountability and transparency.

By continuing a manual collation of election results while they were yet to be fully uploaded on its IReV portal, Yakubu and the commission carried out an assault on the trust of Nigerians.

FIJ recorded that over 19,000 results were still missing from the IReV portal, days after Yakubu announced Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress () winner of the presidential election.

Worse, the commission failed to take responsibility for all of this. Instead, it appealed the ex parte application of Obi and Abubakar, requesting access to the BVAS.

It was after persistent and widespread criticism that the commission, in a press release, attributed its IReV portal failure to its inability to scale the portal to capacity for the presidential election.

The fault with this submission, however, is that, repeatedly, the commission assured Nigerians of its readiness for the conduct of the elections and promised that the BVAS and the IReV portal would be optimally utilised on election day to ensure transparency.

Not only were both technologies underutilised, the INEC chairman, in the face of protests by party representatives at the National Collation Centre in Abuja, pushed complaints to the side and went ahead to complete collation manually.

INEC officials were filmed and reported wanting to vacate polling units without first uploading the results to the portal on multiple instances, citing network failure as reasons. It took voters' insistence for some officials to upload the results before leaving their polling units.

Contrary to the commission's position, INEC seemed to lack the capacity to efficiently carry out the election. There was a shortage of BVAS, logistics failure that slowed down the transportation of electoral materials and INEC officials to polling units, and failure of the IReV portal.

Originally slated for March 11, the gubernatorial and state assembly elections were moved one week ahead after the appeal ruled on Wednesday that the commission could reconfigure the BVAS provided it preserved the voting information recorded on it from the recently concluded general election.

INEC has, once again, assured Nigerians that voting information on the BVAS will not be tampered with and will be stored on its server before the reconfiguration of the device, yet the decision is being contested.

It is, however, not with the reconfiguration of the BVAS that the problem lies. It is that Nigerians no longer trust INEC to protect their votes. (FIJ)

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