The ongoing Nigerian general elections, amidst other controversies it has generated, have been said to have fallen short of international, even continental credibility standards.
The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria issued its first report late Monday, highlighting the massive failures of the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The EU election observers said:
“INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to much anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal (IReV).”
Also, former President of the country, Olusegun Obasanjo, in a statement on Monday titled “2023 Nigeria Presidential Election: An Appeal For Caution and Rectification”, Obasanjo demanded the cancellation of elections in areas where the exercise was disrupted. According to him, INEC officials at the operational level have been allegedly compromised following the manual transmission of results, which he alleged had been manipulated and doctored.
Recall that introducing the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the IReV for the 2023 elections was perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of elections. However, the technology that was much banked on has done little to nothing to improve public opinion on the credibility of the polls.
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Now the question is, would the blockchain technology that boasts of transparency as one of its bases and has been cited by some experts as the perfect recipe for a transparent, free and fair election have done any better in the 2023 general elections? Let’s take a look.
Can the blockchain be used for an election?
In its simplest form, the blockchain is a digital ledger. The technology provides a platform for creating a highly secure, decentralised, anonymised, yet auditable record chain. Thanks to encryption, the blockchain’s database of transactions is incorruptible, and each record is easily verifiable.
According to Investopedia, blockchain could also be used to record and report votes and prevent voter fraud in elections. Voters can effectively submit their votes without revealing their identity or political preferences to the public.
Theoretically, officials can count votes with absolute certainty, knowing that each ID can be attributed to one vote, no fakes can be created, and that tampering is impossible. Although there have been no practical cases of blockchain-based elections, it looks like something that can work with its recently received attention.
Blockchain can’t stop Nigerian election irregularities
According to Lucky Uwakwe, a certified blockchain specialist, a DeFi expert and one of the pioneers that have stood the test of time in the African blockchain space, the election problem is not because the technology used is not decentralised.
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He states that the current technology available to INEC, the BVAS, is partly similar to the blockchain. However, it is not entirely decentralised because the input into the server is done by centralised administrators, which is okay considering the sensitivity of what it’s meant to do. However:
“We’re not saying the BVAS cannot deliver what it’s meant to do. The Nigerian people are saying that INEC, as a board, is not following its own process.
Lucky Uwakwe says the figures INEC is announcing in some places do not tally with what Polling Units party agents signed and what was uploaded.
“The best scenario for blockchain-based scenario is that upon immediate voting, that record would have been uploaded and everybody would see, but the truth is that in a blockchain voting system, everything would have been done electronically. No need for papers; while they might be a solution, if INEC does not apply the guidelines, it will all be flawed.
The INEC guideline says INEC should upload data from its Bvas directly to its server so that anybody from across the country can see or access information. Have they done that in some cases? No.”
Ultimately, Lucky Uwakwe believes that the blockchain does not solve the problem here because the problem is not the technology. It is a case where the electoral body is not following the steps or rules of what it ought to do.
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