Ekiti Election; Another Litmus test for INEC on the Adoption of Technology
June 18, 2022, Ekiti governorship election will be the second governorship election where the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be deployed for the accreditation of voters. The BVAS has been deployed for the accreditation of voters in the Isoko-South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State in September 2021. The BVAS was also deployed in the November 2021 Anambra governorship election, the February 2022 FCT Area Council Election and in the March 2022 bye-elections in Ondo, Cross Rivers, Jos and Imo States. While the BVAS achieved reasonable success in the bye-elections, their deployment in statewide elections like the Anambra governorship election and the FCT area council election was marred with widespread reports of the BVAS not functioning adequately and experiencing other challenges which led to the extension of voting time on election day.
The Ekiti election presents another opportunity for the assessment of the functionality of the BVAS and the capacity of INEC to resolve all challenges observed with the BVAS deployment in Anambra and FCT. This is particularly important because the new Electoral Act in section 47(2)(3), makes it mandatory for the deployment of the technological device for accreditation of voters with a requirement to suspend the election in a polling unit where the device fails to accredit voters and to continue the process within 24 hours if the results from the polling unit will substantially affect the final result of the election. The BVAS now plays a central role in safeguarding elections and in guaranteeing that technical glitches do not disenfranchise every eligible voter who turns out to vote.
Accordingly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is responsible for ensuring that the BVAS functions optimally in the Ekiti state election. This will need INECs commitment to ensuring the mock voter accreditation exercise to test the effectiveness of the BVAS is conducted ahead of the Ekiti election as stated during the quarterly stakeholders meeting held on May 11, 2022. Beyond the issues on the BVAS deployment, the Ekiti election will also serve as a test to assess INECs capacity to manage the perennial logistical challenges observed in previous elections and its ability to inspire confidence in the process.
The findings indicate ongoing preparatory activities by INEC and compliance with the Election schedule of activities. For instance, the official publication of voters register in all 16 LGAs from 19 May 2022, while the final candidate list was published in the capital and 2 other LGAs. According to the final list of registered voters as released by INEC to Political Parties in Ekiti on May 18, 2022, 988,923 registered voters are eligible to participate in the election of these 720,724 have collected their permanent voters cards as of May 18, 2022. A further breakdown of registered voters by demography revealed that 502,906 (51%) are females and 486,017 (49%) are males. The Youths (18-34) constitutes 38.56% of the total voters. Political party campaigns were observed across the state with more reports of voter inducement received. This is closely related to the increasing adoption of door-to-door campaigns making it easier for direct voter inducement.
This is the third Pre-Election Observation Report (PREO), with findings based on reports received from the Watching the Vote Long term observers LTOs) deployed in each of the 16 LGAs in Ekiti state.