TRANSPARENT ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA: AN ASSESSMENT OF THE INTRODUCTION OF IREV PORTAL IN TRANSMITTING ELECTION RESULT IN THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA.
1.1 Background of the study
The fundamental characteristics that are inherent in an election include the essential adherence to ideals such as freedom, justice, transparency, and credibility. For a democracy to be considered stable and secure, it is essential that it have the aforementioned characteristics. In the period of the establishment of the fourth republic in 1999, election procedures in Nigeria mostly relied on manual methods. The manual electoral process was marred by several incidents of corruption, manipulation of ballots, theft of ballot boxes, involvement of underage persons in voting, and acts of violence during the election. According to Ikelebe (2016), the existence of an imperfect electoral system is a contributing factor to the high incidence of post-election crises and legal disputes in election tribunals and courts (LaMorte, 2022). Isiaka et al. (2021) have identified several occurrences of electoral violence and malpractices in Nigerian elections. The presence of a flawed electoral process always gives rise to circumstances that might lead to crises, therefore undermining the integrity of democratic institutions, destabilising the political system, and facilitating the formation of an illegitimate governing body. As a result, there is a noticeable decline in the public's confidence, trust, and willingness to participate in the election process, through which they choose and confer power onto their legal rulers. The manual electoral process presents opportunities for the manipulation of election outcomes by politicians driven by desperation and unscrupulous election officials. Additionally, it enables the ascension of incompetent and mediocre leaders, ultimately resulting in the formation of an illegitimate government. In several developing African democracies, the incapacity of election management bodies (EMBs) to adequately enable elections that embody principles of liberty, impartiality, and trustworthiness has led to various adverse outcomes. The factors contributing to these challenges include diminished levels of voter participation, a general disinterest among voters, a decrease in public confidence towards the democratic system, and scepticism about the Election Management Body's capacity to effectively administer really reliable elections. Since 2011, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has introduced many technical innovations in the electoral process with the aim of addressing the concerns of the voting populace and bolstering the credibility of elections. The developments include the incorporation of information technology, the introduction of the Electronic Voters Register (EVR), the deployment of the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), and the usage of the Smart Card Reader (SCR) (Odinkalu, 2021). The implementation of the electoral legislation in 2022 not only provided the legal framework for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but also conferred upon INEC the jurisdiction to use electronic voting mechanisms, namely the Biometric Voter Authentication System (BVAS), for the facilitation of electoral processes in Nigeria. As the 2023 elections drew nearer, there was a growing need for the use of electronic voting (E-Voting) from many stakeholders, including the general public, civil society groups, media outlets, and the international community. The implementation of the 2022 electoral bill under the leadership of President Mohammed Buhari has granted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the requisite legal and constitutional mandate to employ the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) in all stages of the electoral proceedings. The stakeholders maintain the perspective that the adoption of BVAS has the capacity to alleviate occurrences of electoral fraud, bolster the legitimacy of elections, diminish voter apathy, and cultivate more voter participation. Therefore, the researcher examine transparent elections in Nigeria: an assessment of the introduction of IREV portal in transmitting election result in the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The fundamental goal of any voting system is to accurately determine the voter's intention and then communicate that intention to the vote counter. The accuracy of a voting system's capacity to properly determine the preferences of voters is significantly impacted by the efficiency of the voting process and the precision of the vote counter (Odinkalu, 2021). The e-voting technique has an inherent advanced technology that facilitates the precise determination of the voter's intention. Okonji (2023) asserts that the electronic voting system is one of numerous automated voting approaches that use computer technology devices to augment various aspects of the electoral process. The person said that the electronic system mostly consists of paperless voting technologies, such as electronic voting machines (EVM), Internet voting, telephone voting, IVR voting, digital TV voting, electronic kiosk voting, and several other methods. The Nigerian government has adopted the Biometric Voter Authentication System (BVAS) in order to authenticate the identities of voters, and the Integrated Results Electronic Voting (IREV) system to facilitate the real-time communication of election results to a live audience. The implementation of these procedures was undertaken with the objective of guaranteeing a fair and transparent election procedure (Oyemike, 2023). Nevertheless, the circumstances deviated from initial projections since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not fulfil its promise of facilitating the instantaneous transmission of election results. The opposition parties have expressed apprehensions over possible anomalies in the voting process, hence casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election outcomes. Hence, the need to examine transparent elections in Nigeria: an assessment of the introduction of IREV portal in transmitting election result in the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria.
1.3 Objective of the study
The broad objective of the study is to examine transparent elections in Nigeria: an assessment of the introduction of IREV portal in transmitting election result in the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria. The specific objectives is as follows
i. Find out whether the 2023 general election in Nigeria was transparent.
ii. Assess whether the use and acceptance of IREV was widely welcomed in 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
iii. Investigate the challenges in the use of IREV in transmitting the 2023 Elections results
iv. Suggest ways to improve on the use of IREV for subsequent elections in Nigeria.
1.4 Research questions
The following questions have been prepared for the study
i. Was the 2023 general election in Nigeria was transparent?
ii. Was the use and acceptance of IREV widely welcomed in 2023 general elections in Nigeria?
iii. What are the challenges in the use of IREV in transmitting the 2023 Elections results?
iv. What are the ways to improve on the use of IREV for subsequent elections in Nigeria?
1.5 Significance of the study
The outcome of this study will educate the general public on the benefits of the use of BVAS and IREV for a truly free and fair elections in Nigeria.
This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.
1.6 Scope of the study
The study focuses on transparent elections in nigeria: an assessment of the introduction of IREV portal in transmitting election result in the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria. Hence, the study will find out whether the 2023 general election in Nigeria was transparent,assess whether the use and acceptance of IREV was widely welcomed in 2023 general elections in Nigeria, investigate the challenges in the use of IREV in transmitting the 2023 Elections results and suggest ways to improve on the use of IREV for subsequent elections in Nigeria.
1.7 Limitations of the study
Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, and interview), which is why the researcher resorted to a moderate choice of sample size. More so, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.
1.8 Definition of terms
IREV portal: allows voters and other interested parties to monitor the electoral process and view the results of ongoing elections in real-time
Election: a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other position
Results: a thing that is caused or produced by something else; a consequence or outcome.