Politics

Malfunctional BVAS: Ngige, Soludo decry tech failure, as INEC extends Anambra guber poll till today

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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, and the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, on Saturday, condemned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the malfunctioning of the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

The machine failed to capture Ngige in Alor Ward 1 Polling Unit for over an hour.

He lamented that the failure of the technology could disfranchise over 35 per cent of voters in his ward.

Similarly, Soludo, who was also kept waiting in his unit, described the BVAS technology as a complete failure.

He said: “I kept getting calls all over the state about the breakdown of the BVAS machine.

“Two fundamental points are that the technology has collapsed. This BVAS technology is a complete failure so far.

“By 12.30 in the day, voting is yet to start in most polling units in the state.

“In a few places where they’re going on, the technology that I understand does not take seconds, now takes 20 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes or more.

“With the crowd that you can find here, I mean hundreds of people, even if the machines start working now, and it takes a minute to accredit each person, you are not going to finish this crowd today.

“It raises fundamental questions about the technology. I’m quite a bit shocked to learn that this is happening all over the state.

“I’ve been getting calls from virtually every local government without exception about the glitches and the fact that people are not voting.

“Places where you have 800 or 900 people, you could probably have five or six that have voted so far.

“Maybe, we will keep being optimistic that it is going to be fixed. So far, we have been here for 20 minutes but the technicians have been fiddling with it but no way.”

Meanwhile, following the failure, INEC ordered extension of voting till Sunday.

The extension, it said, is to enable those who could not vote on Saturday due to the malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine, to exercise their franchise.

The machines failed to work in many units, leaving voters stranded.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, said the closing of voting has been shifted from 2.30pm to 4pm on Saturday, after which the exercise will continue on Sunday in units where voting could not hold.

He said the machines suffered software hitches, adding that the commission’s engineers are working hard to rectify the problem.

He said materials did not arrive on time at some polling units because some drivers and ad-hoc staff failed to turn up.

Orji said: “It must be noted that on account of security concerns, some of the transporters that were mobilised and collected 50 per cent of their sign-on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving some of our ad-hoc staff stranded.

“Also, some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment. The Commission is on top of these challenges and extant regulations and guidelines will be applied on a case by case basis.

“INEC has extended the period for opening and closing of the poll from 8.30am to 4.00pm.

“This revised closing time applies to areas where polling units opened after the commencement period of 8.30 am.

“In line with existing regulations and guidelines of the Commission, any intending voter who is on the queue by 4.00 pm shall be allowed to vote. All Polling Unit staff must comply with this directive.

“The extension of time arose out of several field reports that voters have had problems with accreditation.

“The Commission is currently investigating the reason the accreditation devices, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), have worked perfectly in some Polling Units, but not in others. In some of the cases, it would seem that this resulted from software glitches.

“Our technicians have already built an update to the devise software to prevent further challenges.

“The update is currently being installed in the concerned BVAS and we request voters, candidates and agents to be patient and allow our technical staff to solve the problem.

“The Commission wishes to reiterate that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected Polling Unit shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the Commission.

“With this extension of time and the recommencement of accreditation where the BVAS consistently malfunctions, the Commission assures that no voter will be disenfranchised.

“We appeal to all voters, candidates, stakeholders communities and political parties to remain calm and law-abiding. We assure you that the Commission is determined to make all votes count.”

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