When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the BVAS was going to be deployed for the Anambra governorship election held on 6 November 2021, a cross-section of Nigerians, including observer groups and other critical election stakeholders, expressed their reservations about the effectiveness of the machine.

In Kenya, the electoral commission is mandated to test, verify and deploy technology at least sixty days before a general election. The Electoral Act (2022), which guides the conduct of elections in Nigeria, has no similar provision. Notwithstanding, INEC has conducted simulation exercises for the BVAS and the Smart Card Reader in the past, and the machine was used in off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun.

However, the high volume of information exchange, data processing, and transmission involved in the general election, slated for 25 February, is incomparable to those elections. This, therefore, necessitated the mock voters’ accreditation exercise conducted by INEC on Saturday, 4 February 2023. The exercise was primarily a test of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), a technological device used to identify and accredit voters’ fingerprints and facial recognition before voting. For the exercise, four polling units were set up in FCT; two local government areas were chosen in each senatorial district while four polling units were selected in each local government making 12 polling units per state. In all, 436 out of 176,846 polling units were covered, which is less than one percent of Nigeria’s polling stations.

While some may find that concerning, the INEC Chairman expressed satisfaction about the exercise saying, “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.”

Election observers in Abuja noted that “the BVAS worked smoothly across the majority of polling units observed. At an average of between 30 seconds and two minutes, the BVAS accredited voters who showed up for the exercise.”

Although observer data recorded isolated instances, where the BVAS experienced glitches while trying to capture the fingerprints of voters, it also stated that the device eventually got their details with facial capturing.

The mock accreditation exercise has significantly tested the readiness of the BVAS for the forthcoming elections. It is, therefore, important for INEC to share the results of the test in order to engender public support for the device. Despite the doubts expressed in some quarters, the 2023 general elections are here, and the use of the BVAS is non-negotiable!