A recent revelation by some 13 presiding officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission that they transmitted the presidential election results electronically to the commission’s server has again put the commission on the spot and opened a vista of debate, writes Davidson Iriekpen
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come under intense fire the moment 13 of its presiding officers said they were ready to testify at the presidential election petition tribunal that they transmitted results electronically to the commission’s server during the February 23, presidential election. The officers, who are in Borno and Yobe states, under oath, said they transmitted the results on the instruction of the commission.
The contention on whether or not the results of the presidential election were forwarded to a central database of the commission has been among the top grounds for contesting the presidential election results by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
On February 27, INEC declared President Muhammadu Buhari winner of the presidential election, and issued him a certificate of return for a second four-year term starting on May 29, 2019. But Atiku and his party, the PDP, dissatisfied with the result declared challenged it at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal last month, saying they won the election and were in possession of evidence that would upturn the declared outcome.
In his 139-page petition challenging the results at the election tribunal, Atiku said the results from INEC server showed he polled 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari who had 16,741,430 votes, which according to him, contradicted the results declared by INEC that said Buhari received 15,191,847 votes against Atiku’s 11,262,978.
His lawyers said the results were released by an INEC whistleblower that had access to the commission’s internal server and other tools throughout the election.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) is also tackling the former vice president over his claims that the results from INEC server showed that he won the election. In addition, the commission too had dismissed Atiku’s claim, saying the results he paraded were fabricated, adding that the results were transmitted manually and as such, there was nothing in the server.
It added that the results the former vice president was parading were fake and fabricated. Consequent upon this, the APC asked that Atiku should be arrested for hacking into INEC’s supposed empty server. But the PDP presidential candidate said he was willing to engage experts from Microsoft, IBM and Oracle to verify his claim. He and the PDP said INEC pulled down the results from its server and replaced it with a doctored one to favour the president.
To pacify the ruling party, the electoral umpire advised that it should not worry because there was nothing in the server. THISDAY checks revealed that as soon as Atiku publicised the INEC server ID to prove that he had genuine election results, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested workers in the commission’s IT department for leaking information on the server.
It was further learnt that when the wives and families of arrested INEC staff threatened to protest publicly, the DSS quickly released the INEC staff.
To the consternation of Nigerians, in a response to INEC’s denial of the server and its purported result, Atiku’s legal team has attached affidavits from the 13 officers to the tribunal. In their witness statement of oath, the presiding officers said INEC had during their training, instructed them on how to electronically transmit the results to its server.
“We were specifically instructed that the use of the smart card reader for accreditation, verification, authentication, collation and transmission of results is mandatory and that any election conducted without the use of the smart card reader would be invalid.
“I took part in the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections of February 23, 2019, where I served as the Presiding Officer (PO) and I ensured the use of the Smart Card Reader for accreditation, verification, authentication, collation and transmission of votes in my polling unit,” one of the presiding officers said.
According to him, “At the end of voting, the information on the Smart Card Reader with the results inclusive, were collated by me in the presence of the party agents and other ad-hoc staff of the 1st respondent after which my Assistant Presiding Officer (APO-1) transmitted the result electronically in my presence to the 1st respondent’s server, using the Smart Card Reader (SCR) and the code provided by the 1st respondent.”
Another presiding officer said: “I was employed as an ad hoc staff and trained for three days by the 1st respondent at the Government College, Maiduguri, Borno State to serve as a Presiding Officer (PO) at Waliri Polling Unit with Code 003, of Shehun Barna Ward, Borno State on February 23, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections.”
No doubt, the revelation has proved the commission wrong. The same results it said were never transmitted electronically have been confirmed. This has made many observers to accuse the electoral umpire of attempting to pervert justice and truncate the wishes of Nigerians.
For instance, a public affairs analyst, Hamma Shehu, said: “INEC was clever by half. They played themselves, they think they can use technology and jettison it crookedly, unknown to them, everything digital has a footprint and cannot be deleted.”
On his part, Demola Olarewaju said: “The denial by INEC that it did not collate results electronically is a woeful cover-up that absolutely evaporates in the face of evidence and testimony from its own ad hoc staff. The only reason INEC can be lying is, because Atiku won and INEC is conniving with the APC.”
While INEC till now has not reacted to the latest allegation, the spokesman of the APC Presidential Campaign, Festus Keyamo, reacting to the 13 presiding officers and some videos where some INEC staff said the commission planned to transmit results of the 2019 elections electronically, said the courts would only deliver judgments based on the provisions of the Electoral Act and not videos circulating on social media.
According to him, while INEC may have planned to transmit the results electronically, what matters most is if it actually did.
“Without referring to any particular pending election petition, there’s a need to generally guide Nigerians not to gullibly fall for the fantasy created by any video circulating where INEC official(s) spoke of INEC’s plan to electronically transmit results before the elections.
“The video(s) of some INEC official(s) expressing intention to electronically transmit results are only circulated for entertainment. That procedure is neither contained in the Electoral Act nor in INEC’s Guidelines. Courts are only guided by these documents and not such videos.
“Also, what you plan to do may be different from what you actually did. Assuming INEC planned to transmit electronically, the moment it said after the election that it did not do so, the matter ends there especially as the Electoral Act & the Guidelines do not allow it to do so,” he said in his tweets.
But Keyamo alleged that some people connived with some INEC staff to upload results to the website of the electoral body and “the fact that electronic transmission didn’t happen destroyed their plan”, adding that, “those who actually planned to steal the people’s mandate are the ones crying foul.
“In anticipation of the electronic transmission, some crooks concocted fictitious results and perhaps in connivance with certain INEC insiders (or by hacking) tried to upload those results into the server. The fact that electronic transmission didn’t happen destroyed their plan.
“The irony is that the real cheats are the ones struggling to create a narrative that they were cheated; the real crooks are the ones struggling to convince everyone that the system is crooked; those who actually planned to steal the people’s mandate are the ones crying foul.
“The noise about electronic transmission of INEC results is akin to a student, who wants to cheat in an exam & enters the hall with prepared answers, not noticing that the set questions are not exactly framed as expected. So, when he’s later told he failed, he says it’s impossible!”
On its part, Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) too has attacked Atiku for always choosing to leak information to the media. It also asked him to choose either the court or the media for his petition.
The group further accused the PDP presidential candidate of showing disrespect for the judiciary by prosecuting his election petition in the media, rather than at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, alleging that the recent revelations were targeted at whipping up unnecessary sentiments against the courts.
BMO said in a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke that what the former vice president has been doing is prejudicial
“We have observed this pattern of disrespect for the judiciary by one of the losers of the 2019 presidential election, Atiku, who has embarked on a media hearing of his petition even after his lawyers went to court. Nigerians have regularly been fed with snippets from the 139-page document on the pages of traditional media and their online counterparts, to the extent that it seems like the tribunal is about to take a decision.
“We consider it a deliberate act of contempt for the panel and a disregard for the judiciary that should not be encouraged or tolerated. It shows that he is more interested in whipping up public sentiments through the media than prosecuting the case”.
For now, Nigerians are waiting to see how the tribunal will handle all the evidence before it.