Prof. Yakubu Mahood, INEC Chairman

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has said it is capable of transmitting election results from wards despite the rejection of electronic transmission of election results by the National Assembly in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

INEC said the use of the technology will be feasible in the deepening of democracy in Nigeria, premising its optimism on the fact that its joint committee made up of telecommunication stakeholders had revised the system and concluded that electronic transmission of results was practicable.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye, expressed these views in an interview with Sunday PUNCH in Abuja.

PUNCH quoted him as explaining that 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.

Okoye 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 is 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.

“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 stated 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 said, “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.”

The House of Representatives had on Friday passed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, maintaining the controversial Clause 52(2) as presented amidst protests, especially by members of the minority caucus.

The clause gives the Independent National Electoral Commission the discretion to determine when, where and how voting and transmission of results will be done.

After the passage of the bill, the Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, criticised the proposed electronic transmission of election results, saying it was not feasible in the country for now.

“I want to use this opportunity to talk to people out there … We all want electronic transmission of results, but based on the information from experts, it is not as easy as it sounds. We must get our electoral process right and when the time is right, we can come back and amend the law.

“So, I don’t think that electronic voting is feasible right now. What we have been talking about is electronic transmission, and from what we have been told today (Friday), we need to do more work so that everybody’s vote will be counted,” he said.

The Senate also had on Thursday passed the long-awaited Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021 after division among its members on the electronic transmission of results.

After voting, the red chamber ruled out the possibility of having results transmitted electronically when it voted that the NCC, with the National Assembly’s approval, would determine whether INEC could transmit results electronically or not.

Many Nigerians criticised the National Assembly for the non-acceptance of the electronic transmission of election results.

Sokoto State Governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, faulted the Senate’s decision to grant the NCC the power to determine the electronic transmission of results.

He described the Senate’s decision as “unconstitutional,” saying the mode of conducting elections and the transmission of votes should be left with INEC.

“The decision of the Senate to subject INEC constitutional power to conduct elections to the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Assembly is patently unconstitutional. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 78 of the Constitution provides that ‘the registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission.’

“In the Third Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15: INEC has the power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections. The constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.

“Unquestionably, the mode of election and transmission are critical parts of the conduct, supervision, undertaking, and organisation of elections in Nigeria. Of course, the National Assembly has the power to flesh out the legal framework but that has to be consistent with the Constitution,” Tambuwal said in a statement.

PUNCH

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