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2023: INEC insists on e-transmission of results

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again disputed the claims by the National Assembly, that Nigeria lacks network coverage for electronic transmission of election results.

 

The commission in its position paper for electronic transmission of election results, said it has transmitted election results electronically, from 28 out of 36 states of the country, including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), since August last year. The position paper, which was dated September 13, was released yesterday by the Commission.

 

This, according to INEC, involved 27 constituencies spread across 84 local government areas, 925 wards and 14, 296 polling units. The National Assembly had, while rejecting a provision in the 2010 Electoral Act amendment bill that provided for electronic transmission of election results, claimed that most areas of the country were not covered by internet services.

 

It shifted the responsibility to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), which is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Information. But INEC in the position paper, said Nigeria was ready for electronic transmission of election results, disclosing that it has working relationships with NCC and mobile network operators (MNOs) that span for several years.

 

The commission listed its several efforts at application of technology to election management, which it said, enhanced transparency and trust in the electoral process. “The conclusion that the commission draws from these diverse pilots conducted since 2011 is that the country is ready for electronic transmission of results.

 

“The national ICT infrastructure is also adequate for the purpose of electronic transmission of results. “This is underscored by all the discussions we held with the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), over the ten-year period of these pilots, but especially between 2018 and 2019,” INEC stated.

 

The commission said that it introduced INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal to strengthen openness in results management and make it possible for election officials to be held accountable for their actions, where necessary. According to the commission, the idea is to make the exact copy of the polling unit results, “which are usually published at the polling units as Form EC60E, more widely available by publishing them online.

 

“While this is not electronic transmission of results, since these images are not collated, IReV has enabled the commission to test three things that are germane to electronic transmission of results.”

 

This, INEC explained, included to test the efficacy of electronic results management, should the legal encumbrance be lifted; to test the security of its systems if they are deployed for electronic transmission of results; and to test the capacity of the national infrastructure to support future electronic transmission of results.

 

The commission stated that through the use of IReV, “Results were transferred in real-time from all parts of the country covering different types of elections from densely populated urban ar-  eas to rural locations, forest areas to the savannah region, islands to mainland, creeks to mountains and even areas affected by insecurity such as insurgency and banditry.

 

“The commission has been able to successfully transfer images of polling unit level results to IReV from Oworonsoki in Kosofe LGA of Lagos State, Ariaria Market in Aba North LGA of Abia State to far-flung locations such as Dugge in Rijau LGA of Niger State, Mahin in Ilaje LGA of Ondo State, Kwalkwalawa in Bakura LGA of Zamfara State, Dumadumin Toka in Kafin Hausa LGA of Jigawa State, Foropa in Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State, Iguobazuwa in Ovia South West LGA of Edo State, Briyel in Bayo LGA of Borno State, Bundot in Dass LGA of Bauchi State and Okwelle in Onuimo LGA of Imo State.”

 

INEC added that it was convinced from the result obtained from elections where IReV was used that electronic result management will add great value to the transparency and credibility of elections in Nigeria. It stated that its systems have passed the entire necessary security tests, including “dummy hacking” by ethical hackers.

 

The commission argued that auditing and verification of results is an essential part of nation’s electoral system, adding that in a large country like Nigeria, results are handled in thousands of locations. “After elections, interested parties do sometimes call for review of these results. Surely, electronically transmitted results will make this more feasible than handling tons and tons of paper some of which would have been mutilated and defaced.

 

“It is precisely because of the need for ex post facto review of results that Nigerians abandoned the open ballot system that was once used for elections. “If electronic transmission of results is more transparent, supports accountability and better auditing and enhances trust, then it is logical to believe that it would also reduce disputed outcomes.

 

“Of course, negative mobilisation by candidates, even for invented grievances, is conducive to election violence. “And in a country where candidates in elections would sue even for the most improbable redress, a system that reduces post-election disputes must be desired.

 

“We are already seeing more willingness to accept outcomes since the commission introduced the IReV portal. Extending this to electronic transmission of results should produce even more positive result. “Electronic transmission of election results will also make for quicker and more transparent election adjudication.

 

Tribunals are saddled with consideration of mountains of documents containing results during their sittings and this must be done for many cases within a limited time frame. “By making results readily available in electronic form, their lordships will be better able to scrutinise the results in reaching their verdicts.

 

This will vastly reduce the rising public disquiet about court decisions on elections. “Indeed, since the introduction of IReV portal, election litigations have shifted from the conduct of INEC to the processes of nomination of candidates by political parties, as the recent cases of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections held in 2020 have shown.

 

“In fact, no election result has been upturned by the election petition tribunals since the introduction of IReV portal on account of infraction by INEC,” the commission said. INEC stated that based on its partnerships with MNOs and NCC, it is convinced that the nation has the infrastructure to implement the electronic transmission of election results.

 

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