On September 10, 2023, Dele Momodu, a politician and publisher of Ovation Magazine, who served as the director of strategic communications for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council, posted on his Instagram page, “N355 billion for BVAS and 5 person’s said it wasn’t necessary to use it? Isn’t that laughable? Oh, what a country?
This assertion is coming few days after the 5-member panel of justices delivered their judgement on the 2023 presidential election petitions. In the ruling, the judges unanimously affirmed that INEC is not mandated to electronically transmit election results.
However, there was no petition or ruling bordering on the use of BVAS as the machine was used across all polling units in the concluded general election with a 98% success rate.
Claim: N355 billion was spent on BVAS
What is BVAS?
The Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is an electronic device introduced by the INEC in 2021 to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters’ biometrics using both the voters’ fingerprints and facial recognition in order to prove that they are eligible to vote at a particular polling unit.
The device is also used for capturing images of the polling unit result sheet (Form EC8A) and uploading the image of the result sheet on INEC’s Election Result Viewing platform (IReV).
How much was spent on BVAS?
In December 2021, Mahmud Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), appeared before the National Assembly, where he said the electoral commission would spend 305 billion for the 2023 elections. He defended the budget when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Appropriations and explained that the fund would be used for operational costs covering, printing of ballot papers, result sheets, printing of forms and envelopes, arterials and supplies, logistics expenses, honorarium for officials, supervision, RAC preparation, security /intervention support etc.
In November 2022, the INEC chairman appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC, and while defending the commission’s annual budget, he said the projected annual expenditure for 2023 stands at N50 billion.
According to the INEC Election Project Planning Committee, the commission would spend N161.9 billion for elections operational and administrative costs, N117.1 billion for election technology costs, and N18.5 billion for electoral capital costs. The acquisition of BVAS falls under the N117.1 billion earmarked for election technology costs.
Therefore, the commission budgeted N50 billion for its annual expenditure, while N305 billion was budgeted for the 2023 elections, totalling N355 billion. It is out of the N305 billion that the commission earmarked N117.1 billion and part of it would be used to purchase 200,000 units of BVAS machines.
The claim that N355 billion was spent on BVAS is misleading as INEC announced that its total budget was N355 billion. Out of the N355 billion, N305 billion was budgeted for the 2023 general election across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, while N50 billion was projected as the commission’s annual budget for 2023. Hence, out of the N305 billion, the commission planned to spend part of the N117.1 billion on BVAS.