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THE EFFECT OF ELECTORAL MALPRACTICE AND THE BIMODAL VOTER ACCREDITATION SYSTEM IN NIGERIA

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THE EFFECT OF ELECTORAL MALPRACTICE AND THE BIMODAL VOTER ACCREDITATION SYSTEM IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF 2023 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN LAGOS STATE)

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

  1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

The implementation of the bimodal voter accreditation mechanism in Nigeria's 2023 general elections was intended to increase the electoral process's transparency and legitimacy (Okonji, 2022). According to Ogbom (2023), the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is an electronic gadget intended to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters using their fingerprints to verify their eligibility to vote at a specific polling location. The Assistant Presiding Officer (APO 1) verifies and authenticates the voter by scanning the barcode/QR code on the PVC/register, Voter's inputting the last six digits of the Voter Identification Number, or typing in the voter's last name. The APOs are expected to instruct the voter to put the relevant finger on the BVAS, and if the fingerprint match fails, he must take a picture of the voter for authentication purposes.

It was observed, however, that when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) first announced its plan to introduce the bimodal voter accreditation system for the February 25 and March 11 2023 general elections, many Nigerians, particularly politicians, opposed it vehemently and persistently. They believed that the nation had not progressed to the point where such technology could be used for elections. (Yaqub et; al 2023). Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was undoubtedly dissuaded from using the bimodal voter certification method in the general elections as a result of the political outrage that followed its proposed implementation. In addition to its vision to transform the country's electoral process from its antiquated norms characterized by ballot box snatching and multiple ballot tomb-printing. Nevertheless, INEC has faith in the efficacy of modern technology in achieving rapid results. As a result, INEC proceeded to implement the technology in spite of all obstacles (Vanguard, 2023).

In the meanwhile, election is the process of selecting a candidate for public office via a registered political party. In the sense that political conflict (oppositions) is unavoidable, it is a fundamental element of every democratic system. Nigeria first experienced democracy following the actualization of its independence (1960-1966) prior to the military intervention that obstructed the process until 1979, when civilian rule was restored by Obasanjo. The military intervened again in 1983, but Nigeria eventually returned to democratic rule and engagement, resulting in the conduct of its general elections in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2023. General elections are federation-wide elections held for federal and state elected seats (The Electoral Institute, 2022).

Undoubtedly, the 2023 presidential election appears to be the most closely contested in the history of Nigerian elections, as it was the first time an unpopular political party (LP) with their presidential candidate (Peter Obi) challenged the dominance and preponderance of the two major political parties (APC and PDP) in Nigeria. The obvious desire of the 2023 presidential election to exceed expectations was matched by the tangible excitement of the nation's voters, who turned out in force to execute their civic duty. In numerous polling locations, voting, sorting, and counting proceeded far into the night — several hours beyond the 2:30 pm deadline for voter registration. 

However, before the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission implemented a number of technologically based reforms, such as the Biometric Register of Voters and the test run of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in a mock exercise held across the country, to ensure error-free elections (INEC). (Onyekwelu 2015). Regrettably, Omotola (2016), the 2023 presidential election was marred by electoral fraud, despite the adoption of the BVAS and the INEC Chairman's (Mahmood Yakubu) assurances that the BVAS machine will send the election result immediately from each pooling unit. In addition to other abnormalities that occurred between Polling Units (PUs) and the result collation centers. Sometimes, results are hijacked, altered, or even deleted.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

    1. Notwithstanding INEC's trust in the bimodal voter certification mechanism for the general elections of 2023, obstacles were imminent. During the nationwide presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25th, the bimodal voter accreditation technology malfunctioned at a number of polling places, causing an excessive delay in the accreditation process. Although in certain voting districts it functioned flawlessly. The technical issues included network failures of the BVAS, rapid battery depletion, and the inability to collect biometric data from finger tips. For example, the failure of the device to recognize Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his wife left them feeling dissatisfied. After more than 20 minutes of futile attempts, an election officer asked the Wikes to check back as INEC specialists were sent to fix the problem. INEC required the use of incident forms, resulting in a manual procedure of accreditation, which necessitated the postponement of the accreditation process till the next day in all impacted polling units. INEC's announcement and subsequent deployment of the bimodal voter accreditation system(BVAS) in 2023 general elections was to ensure a credible, transparent, free, and fair election in order to strengthen Nigeria's electoral democracy, in light of the massive electoral fraud witnessed in the country's previous general elections. (Punch Magazine 2023). Nevertheless, the deployment of the BVAS in the general elections of 2023 sparked controversy among election stakeholders before to, during, and after the elections. (Zaggi 2023).

Notwithstanding, the 2023 general election is concluded. The election was plagued by problems that almost prevented Nigeria and its citizens from electing their representatives for the next four years. These difficulties almost compromised the election's legitimacy, quality, and administration. Undoubtedly, competent election administration is essential for the survival of democracy. For if the populace does not trust in the fairness, accuracy, transparency, and fundamental integrity of the electoral process, the entire foundation of a democratic society might be at risk. This means that public confidence in the election system's integrity is a pillar of democratic administration (Alvarez and Hall, 2018). Hence, a legal electoral process and popular faith in democratic government are contingent upon both the real and perceived integrity of an election (International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 2023).

    1. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The main objective of this study is to examine the effect of electoral malpractices and the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) in Nigeria (a case study of 2023 presidential election in Lagos State). Other objectives of this study are:

  1. Find out the prevalence of electoral malpractice during the 2023 presidential election in Lagos State.

  2. Find out the factors associated with electoral malpractice during the 2023 presidential election in Lagos State.

  3. Ascertain whether the use of BVAS helped to minimized the rate of electoral practice in the 2023 presidential election in Lagos state.

  4. Identify the factors that affected the efficiency of BVAS in the 2023 presidential election Lagos State.

    1. RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The following research questions will be answered in this study:

  1. What is the prevalence of electoral malpractice during the 2023 presidential election in Lagos State?

  2. What are the factors associated with electoral practice during the 2023 presidential election in Lagos State?

  3. Did the use of BVAS help to minimized the rate of electoral practice in the 2023 presidential election in Lagos state?

  4. What are the factors that affected the efficiency of BVAS in the 2023 presidential election Lagos State?

    1. RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

The following null hypotheses will validate this study:

Ho: The prevalence of electoral malpractice in 2023 presidential election in Lagos State is high.

Ha: The prevalence of electoral malpractice in 2023 presidential election in Lagos State is low.

    1. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This study will help the Nigeria government to adopt policy that will enhance the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) usage in the subsequent elections so as to strengthen democracy in the Country and thereby filling the vacuum created by the current electoral malpractices. The study will also assist Nigeria government to address those loopholes identified in the last election. Generally, it will help in the reduction of arms and thugs during the election and deepen the confidence of the electorates in choosing their leaders. The issue of whether once vote will count or not in election will no longer be a subject of discussion during election. Furthermore, this study will bridge the existing gap between the past and present literature on the effect of bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) on election credibility in Nigeria there by adding to the pool of knowledge already existing in the area under study. Coincidentally, findings made available by this study will serve as reference material to scholars who may carry out similar study in future. Besides, this research work will open a new frontier for debate on the impact of card readers on the last concluded elections. Above all, this study will also be of immense importance to students of international relations especially political science scholars.

    1. SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This study focuses on electoral malpractices and the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) in Nigeria (a case study of 2023 presidential election in Lagos State). Specifically, this study focuses to find out the prevalence of electoral practice in 2023 presidential election in Lagos State, find out the factors associated with electoral practice in the 2023 presidential election in Lagos State, ascertain whether the use of BVAS helped to minimized the rate of electoral practice in the 2023 presidential election in Lagos state, and identify the factors that affected the efficiency of BVAS in the 2023 presidential election Lagos State The respondents for this study will be obtained from the individuals who participated in the 2023 presidential election in Lagos State.

    1. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY

In the course of carrying out this study, the researcher experienced some constraints, which included time constraints, financial constraints, language barriers, and the attitude of the respondents. However, the researcher were able to manage these just to ensure the success of this study.

Moreover, the case study method utilized in the study posed some challenges to the investigator including the possibility of biases and poor judgment of issues. However, the investigator relied on respect for the general principles of procedures, justice, fairness, objectivity in observation and recording, and weighing of evidence to overcome the challenges.

    1. DEFINITION OF TERMS

Electoral Malpractices: sometimes referred to as election manipulation, voter fraud or vote rigging, involves illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of a favored candidate, depressing the vote share of rival candidates, or both.

Bimodal Voter Accreditation System: the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is an electronic gadget intended to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters using their fingerprints to verify their eligibility to vote at a specific polling location.


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