INEC Disowns Senate On Electronic Transmission Of Elections Results

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) straightnews
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disowned claim of the National Assembly of some areas in the country not having the technology for electronic transmission of election results.

While considering the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, the Senate dominated by All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers on Thursday voted that “The Commission (INEC) may consider electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.”

Opposing the claims made during the passage of the bill, INEC’s commissioner for information and voter education, Festus Okoye maintained that INEC has in the past uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access.

Okoye said; “We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access.

“So we have made our own position very clear – that we have the capacity and will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process.

“But our powers are given by the constitution and the law, and we will continue to remain within the ambit and confines of the power granted to the commission by the constitution and the law.”

Speaking in an interview on Sunday Punch, Okoye said INEC was committed to deepening the use of technology in the electoral process and had many times demonstrated it through the creative, innovative and strategic deployment and application of technology in various aspects of the electoral process with the goal of limiting human interference in the electoral process as much as possible.

The INEC Commissioner stated that a Joint Technical Committee constituted by the commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission and made up of telecommunication operators met on March 9, 2018, and the consensus was that the requirements for the electronic transfer of results proposed by INEC is practicable.

He said “INEC has the capacity to transmit election results from the polling units to the Registration Area Collation Centres to the Local Government Collation Centres, the various state, federal and senatorial district collation centres, and the state and national collation centres.

“The Joint Technical Committee constituted by the commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission and made of telecommunication operators met on March 9, 2018, and the consensus was that the requirements for the electronic transfer of results proposed by INEC are practicable. The meeting, therefore, agreed that the solution that INEC wants to deploy is possible.

“We have the assurance of the service providers that they have provided similar technological solutions to other agencies and have the capacity to deploy technology to cover a few blind spots.

“The commission will continue to pilot different solutions bearing in mind that technology is dynamic and can limit human interference in the electoral process. The commission wants broad powers to deploy technology and is not in favour of a particular solution being written into the law.

“The commission is a creation of the constitution and the law and its powers are derived from the constitution. The constitution has also given the National Assembly the power to make laws but such powers must not be in conflict with and or at variance with the provisions of the constitution.

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“We will continue to implement the provisions of the Electoral Act to the extent of its consistency with the constitution, as the constitution is the fundamental law of the land. The commission will continue to build integrity and trust in the electoral process.

“The commission has piloted and continues to pilot various electronic solutions that will improve the integrity of the electoral process. Presently, all the registered political parties upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates electronically.”

Okoye also revealed that domestic election observers and the media applied for accreditation to observe and cover elections electronically and that henceforth, political parties would submit the names and photographs of their polling agents electronically.

He added; “The commission uploads Form EC8A, being polling unit results to a central viewing portal. Since 2020, the commission has been uploading these results from different parts of the country.

“The commission has used and will continue to use the existing technology to upload the results from polling units. The commission has uploaded results from polling units in Southern Ijaw with its difficult riverine and difficult terrain. The commission uploaded results from areas that are only accessible through human carriers.

“The commission uploaded results from conflict areas. The commission uploaded results from all geopolitical zones. Presently, the commission has obtained the GPS coordinates of all the 176,846 polling units in the country and expanded voter access to the polling units.

“Currently, the commission is carrying out part of the continuous voter registration exercise online, while the physical registration of voters will be done using INEC Voter Enrolment Device that will capture the fingerprints and facials of registrants.”

However, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has advanced reasons to justify the position taken by the Senate on the electronic transmission of election results.

Mr Lawan explained that the Upper Chamber voted the way it did in defence of about half of the Nigerian voters whose votes may not be counted with immediate deployment or application of electronic transmission of election results.

The Senate President spoke to journalists at the weekend while on a constituency visit to his Yobe North Senatorial District.

The Senate on Thursday, while considering the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, voted that “The Commission (INEC) may consider electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.”

Lawan explained that the Upper Chamber voted the way it did in defence of about half of the Nigerian voters whose votes may not be counted with immediate deployment or application of electronic transmission of election results.

The Senate President spoke to journalists at the weekend while on a constituency visit to his Yobe North Senatorial District.

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“But you see, when you have not reached that stage where you could deploy the electronic transmission from every part of the country, then you have to be very careful.

”And no matter what anybody may say, you cannot have about 50 percent of Nigerian voters not participating or not getting their votes counted in elections and say it doesn’t matter, that we have to start the electronic transmission.

“We know the evils of not transmitting results electronically but compare the evils of electronically transmitting just half of the electoral votes from Nigerians and say you have elected a President with 50 percent only.

“And others have voted but their results or their votes could not be electronically transmitted. This is disenfranchising Nigerians and we are not going to support this kind of thing because essentially, we are supposed to be fair to every part of Nigeria and when we voted, every part of Nigeria voted for and against (the amendment).

“What I mean here is that, you have Senators from northern part of Nigeria who voted for electronic transmission. Maybe that is their belief or their environment is ready for electronic transmission.

”And you have Senators from southern part of Nigeria who voted against immediate deployment of electronic transmission but they support that the electronic transmission of results should be allowed after certain conditions are met and the conditions are simple.

”The National Communication Commission (NCC) had provided the technical information that only NCC could give – that only about 50 percent of the Nigerian environment, the polling units, in the country could possibly have their results electronically transmitted.

“So what happens to the other 50 percent. So we believe that all of us in the Senate were aiming at the same target but chose to go through different routes and that is why in my concluded remarks in the Senate after the debate and voting, I said there was no victor, no vanquished because we all meant well.

“And for those Nigerians who still feel that the electronic transmission should have just been allowed to take effect, I said well, this is how democracy works. Democracy is to allow those minority views to be expressed and democracy provides that the majority views will always prevail.’’

The Senate President faulted some media reports that insinuated that only the APC Senators voted against immediate application of the electronic transmission of results.

He said the votes cast on either sides of the subject matter cut across party lines and regional divides.