INEC and the server controversy

Posted by News Express | 20 June 2019 | 799 times

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The scenario approximates to a study in contradictions. Doublespeak has seized the day. And we seem to be at the mercy of mind-benders whose stock in trade is to confuse and obfuscate. This unenviable state defines and typifies our lot in the hands of the Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The bone of contention is the commission’s server. Does it exist or does it not? The commission is leading us through a maze. In one breath, it told us that the server would be its ultimate buffer against electoral malfeasance in the 2019 general election. In another breath, it tells us that it only talked about the server in passing. It never existed during the election under reference. What should we believe? What should we discountenance? This is the hot sauce of the moment. That is the most engaging issue as we seek to review what transpired during the controversial polls.

In recent weeks, the commission has had to grapple with the problem of what it did or failed to do in the 2019 general election. When the process of electioneering towards the exercise began, the selling point of the commission was its predilection for innovation. Yakubu said he would do a new thing. He said he would strip the commission of its long-standing hang-ups. He did not want us to lose sleep over the scourge of rigging. That was why he assured us that his commission had put in place foolproof machinery for the delivery of credible and transparent polls. It was in the bid to achieve this lofty objective that he came up with the idea of electronic transmission of election results.

And in the build-up to the 2019 elections, Yakubu gave Nigerians the impression that the commission was in for serious business. He told the voting public that only those who possessed permanent voter cards and whose cards were read by the smart card reader would be allowed to vote. He sounded serious. His mien was much more so. And so we believed him. We were assured that the story of elections in the country would no longer be the same. When, therefore, preparations for the 2019 elections reached advanced stages, Yakubu had to assure us again that the results of the elections would be collated and transmitted electronically. He added for effect that the commission had put in place an electronic collation and results transmission system that would eliminate manual collation, and by so doing frustrate efforts at electoral malpractice.

Yakubu’s assurances and declarations were taken a notch higher by other operatives of the commission. Mike Igini, one of its national commissioners, said then that, unlike what obtained before, every ward would have two collation officers, namely, an e-collation officer and a manual collation officer. With this arrangement in place, presiding officers would input results into the card readers and then transmit them to the commission’s central server. This approach, according to the commission, would make room for evidence-trail and consequently lead to transparency.

To convince us that it meant business, INEC clearly laid out the processes of transmitting results as follows: First, results from polling units will be entered into the e-collation application on the smart card reader. Second, results are then transmitted to a central server. Thereafter, they are auto-collated and can be viewed at the wards; and ECA8s can be scanned at that level. Finally, results audit and confirmation are carried out at the collation centres at local government, state and national levels.

From the foregoing, it can easily be deduced that a central server existed for the purpose of the 2019 general election. But I have decided to undertake this review because we do not seem to understand any longer. The central server whose existence we took for granted because INEC told us that it existed has become a subject of controversy. From telling us that it would use this server to ensure that the 2019 elections would surpass our expectations and conform with international best practices, the commission has, curiously, begun to deny the existence of the server. It had, in recent weeks, said that it had no central server for the results of the 2019 elections and that those asking for it were wasting their time.

To reaffirm the commission’s position, one of its national commissioners, Solomon Soyebi, said the other day that the commission only experimented with the server during the staggered elections that held in some states of the federation such as Anambra and Osun but was not used for the 2019 general election. That is the ultimate denial of the existence of a server by the commission. And that is the high point of our confusion.

There is everything untidy about what INEC is doing at the moment. Reports about the 2019 elections have, before now, suggested that the smart card readers were actually used in a number of voting centres during the elections. Such reports have also affirmed that results were fed into the smart card readers and transmitted to the commission’s server. These assertions have never been in dispute. What we have been trying to verify all this while is the use INEC made or did not make of votes cast without authentication by the card readers. INEC has had to claim that it invalidated such votes. But a number of people who participated in the elections have insisted that the commission authenticated such votes. From the foregoing, it goes without saying that the card readers, and by extension, the server, were deployed for the elections. If it was the case that the commission, at some point, decided to do away with the server, which it had copiously advertised, then Nigeria and, indeed, the watching world,  should have been alerted. INEC’s denial of the existence of the server at this point looks like an afterthought. The denial, coming at the time a major political party that participated in the election is seeking access to the server, seems to give the impression that the commission has something to hide.

The commission’s case is not helped by the fact that the report of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) has indicted it for conducting a flawed election. Just like many Nigerians have said before now, the EU-EOM has affirmed that important polling procedures were insufficiently followed. This includes situations where voting was observed without the smart card readers. All of this, the mission said, weakened the transparency of the election.

We will not dwell much on the damning reports of the EU-EOM, and the United States-based National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute on the 2019 elections. Suffice it to say that INEC should not deepen our woes by playing games with its server.

Source: News Express

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