By Olayiwola Babatunde
One profound secret that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has kept away from Nigerians regarding its election server is the use of tablets like iPad called Z-Pad which is the brand name of its manufacturer.
The INEC server is useless if INEC ad-hoc staff did not send election results to it during elections. The secret link between the INEC server and the public is the fact that INEC recruited IT technicians from a public portal, trained them and paid them honoraria for using the Z-Pads to send election results to the INEC server on election day. What is Z-Pad? Before further explanation about the Z-Pad a little background on INEC’s recruitment efforts to enable the use of the Z-Pad.
Just before the 2019 general election, when the President generated needless and intense controversy by his refusal to accent to the Amended 2019 Electoral Act, one of the redeeming acts which restored INEC’s autonomy was the willingness of the commission to assert its right to determine election procedure based on already existing laws.
The commission through its proxies reminded the country that former President Goodluck Jonathan signed the 2015 Amended Electoral Act, in the new version of the Act, Section 52 the Act empowered INEC to determine the procedure of elections without equivocating, the provision states that: “Voting at an election under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
On the basis of that section of the extant Act and the provisions of Section 160 of the constitution which states that:”Any of the bodies may with the approval of the President, by rules or otherwise regulate its procedures or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for discharging its functions; provided that in the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission, its powers to make its own rules or otherwise regulate its own procedures shall not be subject to the approval or control of the president”
It is widely known and undoubtedly accepted that these legal enablers informed INEC’s decision to use the electronic transmission of results, hence the Chairman of the INEC and a few Resident Electoral Commissioners used this legal backing to inform the public that it was going to transmit results for the 2019 general election, a programme that it has been piloting since the 2011 general election.
To appreciate the scale of work required by INEC to achieve the digital collation and transmission of results to augment manual collation and transmission as well as appreciate how it was expected to advance electoral integrity, it is necessary to note that it budgeted for and indeed procured tablets for each of the eight thousand eight hundred and nine ,8,809, Registration Areas or wards in the local governments in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
On the basis of the above estimated, INEC recruited Information Technology technicians for training, including online recruitment, developed a Training kit for Registration Area Techs ,RATECH, and Local Government Techs ,LGATECHs, and trained them through its IT and electoral Institute line activities sponsored by International Foundation for Electoral Systems ,IFES, which sponsored the trainings in Cross River and Kaduna states. These activities were all budgeted for, implemented and funds disbursed and used for them all over the country.
For the training and field activities, INEC procured z-Pad Tablets from organisations and selected personnel from those trained after the recruitment.
These selected individuals were deployed with the procured z-Pad Tablets to collate digitally captured election results data from the RAs outlined above on election day.
Several ad-hoc personnel have since testified under oath to having used the Z-Pad to send election results as they were trained, on election day.
Specifically, INEC’s mandate for the RATECHs as published in INEC’s Manual included: ”E-collation: which involves, electronically entering the values on the EC8A into the handheld tablet or Zpad by accessing results from APOI uploaded to INEC Platform via his tablet and validates the entry of the APO1 when the actual EC8A result sheet gets to him/her at the collation center where he/she can take pictures of the EC8a and attach to the uploaded data by the APO1 from Polling Units. The APO1 are meant to use his/her SCR and do the electronic entry of the values as recorded on form EC8A and upload same to a server platform and the RATECH gains this data before validating at Collation centers”
INEC spent so much for procuring the E-transmission assets, services and maintaining its own internal needs to receive and disseminate the data from the endeavour, and thus it came as a shock, that these lofty improvements, which were made with the support of credible institutions such as IFES to advance the integrity and speed of collation of results across the country were denied by INEC itself regrettably.
The improvement would have complemented hard copy data from Form EC8As. But all that effort is being suddenly erased because INEC for unstated reasons is unable to show the country the results produced from these endeavours. This curious attempt by INEC to turn an asset into a liability raises many unanswered questions such as: Why is INEC denying the fact that it collated election results using Z-Pads and Smart Card Readers on election day?
*Babatunde, an election data analyst, writes from