The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has conducted the 2023 presidential election, and Nigerians are patiently waiting to see a winner declared.
Before the election on Saturday, February 25, INEC made assurances to Nigerians that it would massively deploy technology (BVAS machines, IReV) to ensure results were instantly and electronically transmitted—a move to ensure a free and credible election.
Elections conducted over the years in Africa’s largest population were largely characterized by irregularities and ballot box snatching, resulting in a situation where the total number of votes cast exceeded the total number of accredited voters.
However, experts are of the view that technology will allow such recurrent situations to stop and improve massively and effectively from what is known to be the norm.
The Nigerian government approved N305 billion for INEC to conduct the 2023 election. This figure represents a 61.37% increase over what was spent to conduct the 2019 general election. INEC spent N189.2 billion to conduct the last general election.
INEC’s Technology BVAS & IReV
The two major technologies the Commission is deploying for the 2023 election are BVAS and IReV.
The INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) is a platform created by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria to provide real-time transmission of election results from polling units to the central collation center. BVAS machines, as manufactured and configured, cannot be tampered with.
BVAS machines do not need the Internet to verify voters; however, they need the Internet for result transmission—to upload images of the polling unit result form (Form EC8A) from polling units to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in real-time and to the INEC central server for collation.
If the polling centers do not have sufficient Internet connectivity, there will be inconsistencies in the numbers, a similar scenario to the recent Osun gubernatorial election.
Checks on the INEC portal on Sunday confirmed that some of the data on the server was blurry, making it almost impossible to see results.
Reacting to this development, INEC said the problem is due to technical hitches related to scaling up the IReV from a platform for managing off-season, state elections to one for managing nationwide general elections. It is indeed not unusual for glitches to occur and be corrected in such situations
Although INEC said in a statement on Sunday that the results from the polling units, copies of which were issued to political parties, are safe on both the BVAS and the IReV portal.
“These results cannot be tampered with, and any discrepancy between them and the physical results used in collation will be thoroughly investigated and remediated, in line with Section 65 of the Electoral Act 2022.”
Before the election, analysts were concerned that human interference could mess up the process in terms of copying the figures on the BVAS into the result sheet. These were suspected to have played out during the election on Saturday.
However, once the content and data on the BVAS are made available for electorates to see, even if the entire dataset is not fully downloaded, the publication on the INEC Result Viewing (IREV) portal would have given Nigerians access to the actual number of voters accredited at the polling unit on that day because the time for which the upload occurs is not automatic.
Some of the videos shared across social media by electorates in some parts of the country show that INEC’s BVAS machines failed to function optimally.
The results of the elections released so far by INEC have generated multiple reactions. Nigerians have questioned INEC on why it took hours before polling unit results were transmitted, thereby accusing the Commission of tampering with the result.
“Let me be honest with you—as I said months ago, INEC was never prepared for this,” Charles Awuzie, a South African-based Software Engineer and Cybersecurity Expert, wrote.
“They are using AWS S3 for storage, and over the last few months, I have raised alarm about the possibility of foreign interference since we are committing such a national asset to an American company whose closest data center is in Cape Town, South Africa, and not Nigeria.” So how can we avoid downtime?
“I made several calls publicly here, and some illiterates who think they know better were busy lecturing me—an AWS partner, oh.” Now, AWS has left them, and they are making excuses up and down.
According to Charles, government agencies like NITDA and Galaxy Backbone all failed, and he added that this was the worst electronically transmitted election anywhere in the world.
This is a failure of NITDA, Galaxy Backbone, etc.—you guys failed Nigeria. You hired a cheap IT team; your IT department is led by an Agbodo boy who knows nothing but tribalism.
He said MTN’s CEO, Mr. Toriola, has questions to answer too. “When the time comes, we will talk… “For now, I will advise you guys to get urgent help from AWS 247 Support and serve Nigerians their election results,” Charles wrote.