How will voting be conducted in Nigeria?

This year’s general election has seen the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV)
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On Feb. 25 the Nigerian general elections commence.

Alongside voting for its next president and vice president, there are elections to choose the Senate and House of Representative members. This will be followed two weeks later on Mar. 11 by elections for 28 of 36 state governors and members of parliament at federal and state levels.

The main question is who replaces incumbent Muhammadu Buhari who leaves an unfortunate legacy of leaving the country much worse than he found it at the beginning of his first term in 2015. Eighteen candidates, including a female aspirant, have made it to the polls, with three considered contenders. Age eligibility to vote remains 18 and above, with the person mandated to register in the same constituency in which they are casting a ballot. Nigerians in the diaspora are still not allowed to cast votes.

Election legacy in Nigeria

Since the return of democracy in 1999, underhand tactics, including vote rigging and a lack of transparency, usually plague elections in Nigeria. As a result, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), its electoral body, has looked to reduce human interference by infusing technology into its process. Since the last two election cycles, for instance, a considerable part of voter registration has been digitized.

This year’s general election has seen the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV), with INEC hoping to attain a free and fair election, according to its chairman Mahmood Yakubu.

Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS)

The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is a scanner for verifying voter authenticity (fingerprints and facial features) and uploading results from polling stations. There are 176,846 polling units across the country, each fitted with a BVAS. The BVAS replaces the manual incident forms used in past general elections to verify voters.

The result collation process will shift from manual to virtual transmission. Electronic copies of the hand-signed paper results from each polling unit will be uploaded to INEC’s Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV) via the BVAS. Upon verification, these results will be published and accessible to the public via internet-enabled devices. The electoral body has insisted that expanding digital technology will minimize electoral malpractice.

The BVAS was tested in by-elections in 2021 and 2022, the latest being the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections. Already, the system has been mired in scandal. It was in the middle of a dispute regarding the Osun State election, where the election that saw the victory of the initial winner, Peoples Democratic Party’s Ademola Adeleke—music star Davido’s uncle—was annulled on the grounds of “over-voting”.

How will the presidential election be determined?

To succeed Buhari, either of the 18 aspirants must secure the majority of votes and have 25% of the votes from at least 24 of Nigeria’s 36 Nigerian states. If none of the candidates meets these criteria, a run-off between the top two will be conducted within 21 days. Since 1999 when the country transitioned back to democratic rule, no presidential election has gone to a run-off. However, with the dynamics of this presidential election, predictions of a run-off have been touted.