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Electronic Transmission Of Results, In Whose Interest?

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“I am not in support of electronic transmission of results. We are not ready. It is best if we are equipped and ready to secure the website that nobody can hack. If we say for 2023, we are going to transmit results electronically, is it possible? Everybody knows that it is only the person with the highest number of votes that will get it. So, results should be announced at the polling units and collation centres, where applicable. Let us not start what we cannot do.”
That was the position
proudly made public by a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic representing Bauchi South Senatorial District of Bauchi State.
As the agency that bears much of the difficulties and collateral consequences associated with manual collation and transmission of votes at elections, over the years, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had expressed preference for the adoption of electronic results by electronic means. Against this backdrop, Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had urged the National Assembly to amend the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 to allow for electronic collation and transmission of results; arguing that the manual method enshrined in the laws is too cumbersome and expensive.
“We have to also address our electoral process which is manual. It is too expensive and cumbersome. The process of collating results is sometimes chaotic because the law says that you must write results manually and collate them manually right from the polling unit to the ward, from the ward to the local government, then, the state and from the state to the national level, in the case of the presidential election. “A lot has been achieved in other climes with the simple application of technology. So, the encumbrances to the deployment of technology in the transmission of election results should be removed as part of this process”, the INEC boss said as part of his submission to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Last week, Nigerians’ expectation for the bill to be passed into law by the Senate was dashed as controversy arose amongst the lawmakers with the questionable appearance of a strange Section 50 (2) which completely outlaws transmission of votes by electronic means.
The contentious provision states that voting at an election under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedures determined by the commission, which may include electronic voting provided that the commission shall not transmit results of the election by electronic means.”
Of course, the report of the Senate Committee on INEC, led by Sen. Kabiru Gaya, which prepared the bill did not make it to plenary until last Wednesday as some members of the committee threatened to raise objection on the floor of the senate unless the offensive section was expunged and the version to be laid before the senate faithfully corresponds with what they collectively signed up to.
The question Nigerians have since been asking is, who is afraid of electronic transmission of election results and why? With admirable results already recorded on the electronic transmission of election results by INEC in some previous elections including the September, 2020 Edo State governorship election, Nigerians are wondering why anyone would hinder the full scale and unfettered application of appropriate and requisite technology in our electoral system, especially seeing that the electoral body itself has not indicated lack of capacity, inability or unwillingness to undertake the process.
Yet the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, is reported to have said that electronic voting and transmission of election results will not work in the northern part of the country come 2023.
“As a member of the Senate, I am talking realistically, the issue of electronic voting is futuristic, but not realistic for us in the north, particularly. Can you do electronic voting or transmission of results without electricity? The answer is no; he said. According to Senator Ndume, who represents Borno South Senatorial District, the adoption of electronic voting and transmission of results will render the electoral process vulnerable adding that while he was determined to stand against the electronic means, himself and his people were comfortable with the writing of results in hard copies.
“What they are trying to do is to make the election vulnerable. Supposing somebody drops a virus in the process, supposing somebody desfroys the collation centre or attacks the server, what will happen?”, he reasoned, insisting that the envisaged benefits of reduced tension, killing and election rigging were untenable, people rig election only where they are already popular.
“Infact, electronic voting is more susceptible to manipulation… So, we don’t want to get involved in that, particularly we, the northern senators, because we are the ones that don’t have the facilities or the infrastructure that is required to conduct electronic voting … So you are saying that we should go through electronic voting for what? Let’s go out and vote the way we have been voting before”, Senator Ndume insisted.
Reacting to questions on the subject matter, erstwhile INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega said, “once there is a robust software and hardware for doing so, it now brings efficiency, transparency and real time ability to see the result as they are transmitted from the polling unit to a National Collation Centre”, however adding that “there are so many challenges in our country. For one to be able to do effective, thorough electronic voting, you need the infrastructure, software and associated support infrastructure. For example, stability of electricity, extensive network coverage and robust internet facilities,” and advised Nigerians to “make haste slowly”.
Yet, individuals and stakeholder groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) have expressed the view that the process of collating results had been usually chaotic, vulnerable to manipulation, sometimes violently disrupted and needlessly shrouded, adding that it was to cure this that the electronic transmission of results got endorsement from a wide range of stakeholders, during the public hearings embarked upon by the National Assembly as part of the process to amend the Electoral Act.
“It will eliminate interference by security agents, politicians and even thugs in the collation process. There will not be reason to kidnap electoral officials and snatch ballot materials”, Director, CDD, Idayat Hassan, said, emphasising that, “In Nigerian elections, you can win during voting but lose during collation. Electronic transmission will take away the power of the Returning Officers to influence the election process”. According to Hassan, a paper format that will serve as a back up in the electronic transmission arrangement will take care of the probable incidences of a malfunction of criminal interference.
In his own reaction, Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere said those who were arguing against the inclusion of the provision of electronic transmission of results were those who haboured intentions to manipulate votes during elections.
“With election transmission, there will not be any case of results missing on the way or snatching of ballot boxes. Any politician that does not want that to happen is planning to rig election”, Auwal Rafsanjani said.
A report of the joint committee on INEC in the Senate and House of Representatives which was debated yesterday was verified to read” “Section 52 (1)” Voting at an election under this Bill shall be by open secret ballot.
“52 (2) voting at an election under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting.
“52 (3) The commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable”.
Whichever way the National Assembly chooses to swing, Nigerians just don’t want to continue with the system that threatens the lives, livelihoods, mandate and stability of the democratic system at every election season. This, they hope, will be achieved for me them through the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.

By: Opaka Dokubo

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PDP Reschedules NEC Meeting For Sept 26

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has slated September 26 for its second National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the year.
The date was announced by the party through its 2024 adjusted timetable and schedule of activities for congresses, which were released to party members and stakeholders on Monday.
Ahead of the September NEC meeting, the party has slated July 27 for the conduct of ward/delegate congresses to elect ward executives as well as three ad hoc delegates in 23 out of the 36 states of the country, including Abuja.
The timetable also disclosed that, among other things, the NEC is expected to ratify the list of executives that will emerge from the congresses.
According to the timetable, local government congresses to elect council executives and national delegates in 21 affected states are expected to follow on August 10th.
Recall that in April, the PDP held its first NEC meeting after acrimonious elections in 2023, where many of its high-profile members were involved in anti-party activities.
The party remains polarised, with some members supporting former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the party, and others queuing behind the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Nyesom Wike.
The outcome of the election and issues surrounding the role played by its leaders led to the suspension of the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, by his Igyorov Ward executives from the Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State.
However, the effort to remove the Acting National Chairman, Ambassador Illiya Damagum, to allow the North Central region where Ayu hails from to produce its successor was deferred to the next NEC meeting earlier slated for August, which has now been shifted to September.

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Edo, Ondo 2024: INEC Warns Personnel Against Corrupt Practices

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the success of any election largely depends on the professionalism and competence of those responsible for conducting it.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this while warning its personnel against unethical and corrupt practices in the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
He spoke on Monday in Abuja at a lecture in honour of late Abubakar Momoh, former director-general of The Electoral Institute (TEI), from August 2013 to May 2017.
Prof. Yakubu, represented by the National Commissioner, and Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, warned that any unethical practice before, during and after those elections would incur severe punishments under the law.
The theme of the lecture was: “Achieving Professionalism Among Election Personnel Through Effective Training in Preparation for the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections.’’
He advised electoral officers to be guided by the principles of integrity, impartiality, transparency, professionalism, gender and disability sensitivity.
He said it was important for electoral personnel to be knowledgeable, skilled and well-equipped with relevant competencies to handle the complexities and challenges of the electoral process.
“Moreover, the crucial role election personnel play in upholding the integrity of our democratic processes cannot be overstressed.
“The manner in which they discharge their duties and responsibilities affects the degree of confidence voters will have in the electoral process, which will impact their participation and turnout,’’ he said.
Prof. Yakubu said that to ensure credibility and trustworthiness in elections and build trust among the electorate, INEC had always prioritised the professional development of its election personnel.
He said the commission identified effective and efficient electoral training as the key to unlocking professionalism among election personnel.
“The commission’s involvement in effective training programmes has empowered its staff to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism in order to strengthen our processes and procedures to serve the interests of all Nigerians,’’ he said.
The Director General of TEI, Dr Sa’ad Idris, in his remarks, said that INEC, in pursuit of its mission and vision, had prioritised professionalism toward achieving free, credible, transparent and inclusive elections.
“As we prepare for the 2024 Edo and Ondo off-cycle governorship elections, the commission is assured that the outcome of effective training of election personnel will manifest in a high level of professionalism”, he said.

 

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Reps Propose Rotational Presidency, Six-Year Single Term

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A bill seeking a single term of six years for the President and state governors was brought up on Monday by 35 members of the House of Representatives.
The bill also canvasses the rotation of the presidency among the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The 35 legislators, under the auspices of Reform-minded Legislators, said the proposition would lead to a reduction in the cost of governance.
Addressing a press conference at the National Assembly Complex on Monday, the spokesman for the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, added that the move would unite the country and ensure a seamless transition and unprecedented development for the country.
Hon Ugochinyere emphasised the need to interrogate the challenges facing the Nigerian state, saying, “We should not be afraid to meet and discuss our problems, challenges, fears, aspirations, and prospects as a people. We should not discuss in fear and we should never fear to discuss.”
Speaking on the bill, Hon Ugochinyere, who represents Ideato North/Idaeto South Federal Constituency of Imo State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said, “On governance, we are proposing a constitutional alteration to provide for the rotation of executive powers among the six geopolitical zones to ensure equal representation and reduce the desperation and tempo of agitation for the creation of states. We are proposing to amend Section 3 of the constitution to provide for the recognition of the division of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones.
“And also, to amend the constitution to provide for a single tenure of six years for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the state governors. This will bring about a reduction in government spending and wastage; promote efficiency in governance, and national stability by providing a single term of six years for the President and the governors.”
The lawmakers drawn from different political parties are also seeking amendments to the constitution “to create the office of two Vice Presidents from the southern and northern parts of Nigeria.”
Hon Ugochinyere explained that the First Vice President would be a succession vice president, while the Second Vice President would be a minister in charge of the economy, and both shall be ministers.
Hon Ugochinyere said the 35 lawmakers were also pushing for a “constitutional amendment to provide that the President and the First Vice President shall come from the same part of the country (North or South) and the First Vice President shall become President whenever the President becomes incapacitated, that is, VP (succession), VP (Administration and Economy).”
The bill also seeks financial autonomy and accountability of local government councils by prescribing an independent Consolidated Local Government Council Account solely superintendent by Local Councils. It prescribes long-term imprisonment for any misuse of local government funds.
On electoral reforms, the group proposed amendments to the relevant sections of the Electoral Act to ensure “that all elections (presidential, governorship, National Assembly, state Houses of Assembly, and local Governments) are held on the same day.”
Hon Ugochinyere said, “We are pushing for amendments to relevant sections of the Electoral Act to provide that no declaration of a winner of an election shall be done by the relevant Independent National Electoral Commission officials until such officer has compared the results with the list of accredited voters and ensured that the results to be declared are in tandem with the list of accredited voters and the B-VAS machine or any other electronic device.
“Amend the Electoral Act to provide that any INEC officer who declares a false result will be liable for civil and criminal action personally brought against him by parties in the elections.
“An amendment to the Electoral Act to provide that all election-related litigations must be resolved and determined by the Elections Petitions Tribunal, Appeal Courts, etc before the winners are sworn into the respective elective offices.

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