February 27, 2023

Where went electronic transmission?


INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu

An estimated 87 million Nigerians who collected their Permanent Voter’s Registration cards, PVCs, filed out on Saturday, February 25, 2023 to vote for Presidential candidates, Senate and House of Representatives members of their choice.

The confidence of the electorate had been massively buoyed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, proactive adoption of technology to minimise election rigging. Towards the 2023 general elections, INEC succeeded in getting President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment law to authorise electronic transmission of election results from the polling units. Section 47 (2) and (3) of the amended Act, which was signed into law on February 25, 2022, made sure of that.

This section empowered INEC to deploy its homegrown technologies like the PVC smart card readers, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, for proper voter identification and accreditation, as well as the transmission of results from the polling units to the Commission’s central server viewable on the INEC Result Viewing, IreV, portal.

Electronic transmission of elections was tested during the off-cycle Anambra, Ekiti, Osun governorship and other legislative bye elections. Its performance and the Commission’s repeated assurances that it would be used during the general elections boosted voter confidence.

On August 21, 2022, INEC’s Spokesman, Festus Okoye, clarified as follows: “Section 60(5) of the Act makes it mandatory that the presiding officer shall transfer the results, including the total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner prescribed by the commission”.

Nigerians were shocked that contrary to INEC’s promise, the electronic transmission of results failed woefully in the Presidential and National Assembly elections last Saturday. Contrary to INEC’s promise that the results would be viewed in real time on the IReV portal, no such thing happened. Polling unit results did not start trickling in till towards the evening of Saturday. Indeed, results from most parts of the North were not made public on election day.

Electoral officers, either deliberately or because of genuine system failures, could not upload results. As a result, polling unit results were taken to collation centres without electronic transmission, which rendered them vulnerable to falsification. Indeed, the same ballot snatching and destruction of polling booths, especially in Lagos and Rivers states.

The failure of INEC to electronically transmit results from the polling booths is a violation of the Electoral Act. It rendered the electoral materials vulnerable to criminal tampering. We call for the cancellation of all results that were not electronically transmitted and the rescheduling of elections where such happened. Otherwise, there will be many stolen mandates which will rob the next crop of leaders of legitimacy.

That may be a recipe for a political impasse or violence, which the nation cannot afford.