Ebuka Onyeji, Adejumo kabir and Alfred Olufemi
Several officials who said they were deployed as electoral officers by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 presidential election said they transmitted results electronically to a ‘central server’ through smart card readers.
This they said was done in compliance with the directive given by the commission during a three-day training before the polls.
The 20 officials deployed to various states, who mostly worked as presiding officers, said they were told that there was a “central server in Abuja” where results are collated electronically.
It is not immediately clear on which “central Server” the officials admitted to transmitting results but this has added a new twist to the ongoing confusion trailing INEC’s consistent denial that it used no server for the election.
A manual issued to the electoral officials by INEC for the 2019 election revealed that the “Communicate” icon on the Smart Card Reader should be used to transmit the accreditation data to the central server.
Another handbook for election officials in 2018 was however more précise on how presiding officers should use the card readers for electronic collation and transmission of results.
It said it became necessary to apply technology to transmit data and results from the polling units due to irregularities that take place after the voting process.
“After successfully filling the EC8A result sheet and announcing the result, the presiding officer shall tap the e-collation application on the home screen”, a part of the book read.
The runner up in February’s presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the election tribunal.
Determining whether the commission operated a central computer database that received election results has become central to the dispute after Mr Abubakar said results obtained from the server proved he won the election with 1.6 million votes to defeat Mr Buhari.
But INEC has strongly denied the claim, saying it neither transmitted results electronically nor saved them on any server. It said such activities were not permitted by the electoral law yet. The commission also accused Mr Abubakar of circulating fake results.
Following the controversy over the veracity of INEC’s position on not using a central database, PREMIUM TIMES randomly interviewed about twenty electoral officers who worked in various states during the election.
While most of them admitted to sending the results electronically using the internet enabled smart card readers as directed, the rest said they only sent the number of accredited voters and rejected votes, “to the central server”.
Some of the officials, who requested to speak anonymously for fear of victimisation, said they were instructed to turn in the card readers after sending the results.
“INEC asked us to paste the result sheet and also send them electronically through the card reader,” a serving corps member who worked as an ad-hoc staff at Ido Local Government of Oyo State said.
“The results, as we were told, were sent into a central server in Abuja. The results can’t be more than the accredited voters on the card reader. It will reject it… You can’t submit your card reader without posting the results.”
Gbenga Oladayo, an Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) in Ipetumodu area of Osun State, described INEC’s denial as ‘contrived’.
“They told us there’s a server that automatically records the number of accredited voters, cancelled votes and rejected voters.”
The APO2 for polling unit 023 at Maryland, Kosofe Local government in Lagos corroborated this.
“We did that as we were told during the training. I was shocked when I also saw the news that INEC claims that there is no server.”
‘How we handled results’
An ad-hoc staffer for PU8, Ode Ajibade Ward, Ilorin East Local Government, Ode Ajibade in Kwara State explained how they handled the results as instructed.
“We were instructed, in line with the guidelines, to record the results on form EC8A and paste at the polling unit and also transmit the result via the electronic card readers through the e-collation option, and this was communicated to us during training. The revision was done by ‘RAC TECH’ guys too.
“The challenge we had was bad network. However, we ended up transmitting the results via the electronic card readers when we got to the collation centre. You must send the results before submitting the card readers.”
When asked where the results were transmitted to, he said he believe ”it’s to the central server”.
“Not only were the results sent. Figures regarding accredited voters were also transmitted. I did all these as the PO, and I also had an APO (VP).”
Another ad-hoc staffer for PU10, Ologbenla ward, Ifetedo Local Government, Osun State gave a similar account.
But the Presiding Officer (PO) at PU002, Ward 8, Agege Local Government of Lagos State disputed this.
He said ”they were not directed to do anything with the result”.
Others who spoke said they experienced hitches in sending the results to the “central server” due to network challenges.
Ayo Aderibigbe, the P.O for Kware Local government in Sokoto State said during the training, said, “We were told to press the ‘send’ button on the card reader after the voting and the counting has been done.”
“They told us it would automatically get to them. But on Election Day, it was not going through because of the poor network, and after trying for hours, we paid one of the INEC technical officers at the local government, Raphael. He promised to help us upload this to the server when it was less congested,” Mr Aderigbe, a corps member, said.
Another corps member, who was the P.O at PU 022 ward 2 of Jos South local government In Plateau State, had a similar experience.
“I could not sleep that night. The issues most people had was the network. The network was not responding.”
But Collins, a student of Obafemi Awolowo University on election duty at PU008 of Fajuyi hall, Ile-Ife in Osun State said the network was “okay”.
“At exactly 1:40 p.m. that day, we sent the necessary information that should be sent via the card reader. I was shocked by INEC’s denial.”
Conundrum of INEC laws
PREMIUM TIMES saw details of INEC’s budget for the 2019 elections, and the spending plan shows the electoral body collected N1.47 billion from the federal government for servers.
But a spokesperson for the commission, Festus Okoye, told this Newspaper that the budget for servers was made in anticipation that President Buhari would sign the amended Electoral Act to allow electronic transfer of voting results.
This medium reported how Mr Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Bill in letters to the leadership of the National Assembly last December. The president said signing such a bill few months to the general elections could disrupt the process, a position criticized by several Nigerians.
With the foregoing, our reporters further reviewed the duties of the electoral officials as prescribed by the electoral act and guide.
According to the electoral regulations and guidelines for 2019 elections, the presiding officers are duty bound to “transmit the result as prescribed in the Electoral Act”.
Section 65 of the Electoral Act specified how results should be submitted by the presiding officer but did not provide for electronic transmission of results and data.
However, a new section (65A) inserted in the amended electoral act seeks to mandate digital storage and archiving of election results by INEC at its national headquarters.
It is that amended electoral act that Mr Buhari refused to sign into law.
More questions than answers
In a response to INEC’s denial of the server and its purported result, Mr Abubakar submitted affidavits from 12 persons he said worked for INEC as election officials.
The officials reportedly admitted under oath that they transmitted results electronically.
A civil society group, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), said its observers saw polling officers ‘attempting’ to transmit results electronically in 65 per cent (961 of 1489) of polling units observed on the presidential Election Day.
After the postponement of the election by a week, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini, also said the commission made provisions for a central collation server.
“…The fact is that I am aware that at the polling unit, the same result is there, the duplicate has been given to the party agents and transmitted to the central server. Without talking to me, both of you have the result” the official said during a Channels TV programme aired on February 18.
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“Apart from the incontrovertible facts our IT and legal teams have in their possession, and ready to bring to the attention of the tribunal, I wish to present to you another evidence obtainable by FoI.”
A joint committee of information technology and legal experts has claimed to have incontrovertible evidence about Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) servers, installed in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The groups, Deservation and Pukka Initiative, made the revelation in Yola, Thursday night, showing a document, that detailed how and when INEC server was allegedly installed and put to use.
Dr. Sani Adamu, who spoke for the two groups, said, “Apart from the incontrovertible facts our IT and legal teams have in their possession, and ready to bring to the attention of the tribunal, I wish to present to you another evidence obtainable by FoI.”
Quoting the INEC chairman, Prof. Yakub Mahmood, Adamu stated the electoral body’s chairman had publicly declared that “we are pioneering and deploying in 2019 general elections, a new platform for the electronic Collation and transmission of results of the 2019 elections”.
He, therefore, decried alleged moves by INEC to deny the availability of the server, stressing that the action is grave, just as it is a looming national disaster.
Countering the electoral umpire’s claims, Adamu referred to “INEC’s 2017-2021 strategic programme of action document, page 5, serial number 1.4 and key action, titled ‘improve ICT operational deployment and utilization, including activities SN 1.4.1 to SN 1.4.57”, saying these series of activities “have captured all the essence of the server deployment by INEC”.
He insisted that all of the activities underscored the approval for a server and its subsequent implementation between the first quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2018.
“Specifically, based on activities SN 1.4.57 in the strategic programme of action 2017-2021, the INEC leadership have received the approval for the transmission of electronic results to the collation centres.
“In the same vein, SN 1.4.16 indicates that INEC has received the approval to procure servers for the 36 states and the FCT in the second quarter of 2017 and completed in the second quarter of 2018.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to tender a copy of the 2017-2021 strategic programme of action document, which dealt with issues of ICT including servers, card readers and the electronic transmission of election results,” he claimed.
He called on all Nigerians to join the campaign for INEC to own up and do the needful. “Because we are in a situation similar to the June 12 of Moshood Abiola,” he added.
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Former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, has raised alarm of plot to arrest him.
This was contained in a statement by his spokesman, Paul Ibe, on Sunday.
It said due to Atiku’s insistence of existence of a server used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), his enemies attributed a false comment on “mass protest” to him to prepare ground from his incarceration.
Ibe said: “I wish to emphatically state that such a statement did not emanate from Atiku Abubakar or his privies.
“It is the work of mischief makers who want to mar his spotless pro-democratic record and lay the ground work for their threatened actions against him on false charges of being a threat to national security.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku Abubakar believes in the rule of law and in the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In his almost four decades in politics, he has never taken action or spoken words against democracy and will not start now.
“Atiku Abubakar and his team have confidence in God and thus call on those bent on mischief to have the fear of God and retrace their steps.
“Democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. The culture of fear being created now cannot rein in our democracy. Nigeria and Nigerians have a consistent history of outlasting tyranny and will continue to do so by the grace of God.”
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Olusola Fabiyi, Kamarudeen Ogundele and Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The outgoing Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, on Tuesday lamented that he had been afflicted with more evils in the ruling All Progressives Congress than he would have suffered if he had been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party.
He regretted that the APC had inflicted what he called the greatest devilish political machinations against his person 10 times more than what he would have been inflicted with if he were to be a member of the PDP.
Okorocha spoke with journalists in Abuja.
The embattled governor however said he would remain in the ruling party despite alleged moves to frustrate him out of the APC.
He accused the National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, and other unnamed leaders of the party of working with the Independent National Electoral Commission to kill his senatorial ambition.
This, he said, was being done by ensuring that he did not get his certificate of return as the duly elected senator for Imo West Senatorial District.
He said there were moves to damage his political career by his enemies.
Okorocha, who was elected governor in his first tenure as a member of the All Progressive Grand Alliance before he joined others to form the APC, said it was regrettable the evil that made him to dump the PDP for the ruling party had become more fiery.
He said, “The evil I feared in the PDP has befallen me 10 times in the APC. Last week, I wrote a letter to INEC for the first time informing them of their wrongdoings and illegal actions to withhold my certificate on mere allegation of duress which was never founded, neither was there any committee set up to investigate the matter.
“So, INEC on its own believed the reports of the Returning Officer without investigating the authenticity of the accusation. So, there was no issue of fair hearing at all.
“What is important here is that INEC does not have the power to withhold the certificate of return, having declared the result.
“I believe the INEC chairman is up to a game with the chairman of the APC, who is being used to frustrate my coming to the Senate, and this is politically motivated. I’ve given INEC enough time to correct itself and do the needful and issue me my certificate of return but to no avail.
“Many things have happened so far and these should be of concern to everyone. INEC that made the submission to the tribunal has gone back, requesting to withdraw it because the submission was defending its declaration. But because the submission seems to be in my favour, they have said they want to withdraw the affidavit which is out of time.
“The withdrawal was made by one of their members of staff who said that Festus Okoye, a commissioner in INEC, had threatened to sack him if he did not withdraw it. So, there is a huge threat going on in INEC.
“Festus Okoye is presently being used as the hatchet man; he has gone to the tribunal in Imo asking for the withdrawal of the affidavit that has been filed defending the APC.”
Okorocha wondered what the electoral body would do with the certificate of return.
He added that the image of the commission had been “bastardised.”
He said, “I wonder what they want to do with the certificate, if they don’t give it to me, who will they give it to?
“Maybe they will give it to Festus Okoye because he is from my senatorial district but what they are doing is presenting INEC as a lying organisation and that is dangerous for our democracy because, as it stands right now, the image of INEC is bastardised.
“What it means is that tomorrow somebody can withhold the certificate of return of anybody because you don’t like his face, because you feel that he wants to politically challenge you in future.”
Although he is said to be close to President Muhammadu Buhari, Okorocha however said he did not want to bother the President with such an issue especially as it concerns INEC.
“If you know the President well, you will know that he will never intervene as he will only keep mute. But whether President Buhari speaks or not, INEC should do the right thing by giving me my certificate of return,” he added.
Return to a democratic party, PDP tells Imo gov
Meanwhile, the PDP has urged Okorocha to return to its fold, saying the views of its members will not be discarded.
It also said that unlike the APC, there was no one or group that could lay claim to the ownership of the PDP.
The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the PDP “will always treat its members with respect and allow for robust debate on issues affecting the party and our members.”
He added, “Unlike the APC that is owned and controlled by different cabals, the PDP is owned by the people and they are the ones that determine its present and its future. So, I will expect all those that are suffering and smiling, all those who have been beaten by rain and chased out of the party they formed and the house they built without a solid foundation to return to their natural abode where there is peace and tranquility.”
Efforts to reach the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, were unsuccessful.
He neither returned phone calls nor replied to a text message sent to him by one of our correspondents as of the time (8:30 pm) of filing this report.
CJ rejects Okorocha’s petition, refuses to re-assign CoR suit
Meanwhile, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Kafarati, has rejected Okorocha’s petition in respect of his suit challenging INEC’s refusal to issue him a certificate of return as a senator-elect.
Okorocha had petitioned Justice Kafarati requesting that the case be withdrawn from Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Division of the court and be reassigned to another judge of the same division.
The governor had anchored his petition on a claim that the opponents to his suit were confident before hearing could commence that Justice Abang would rule in their favour.
On April 18, the date fixed for the hearing, Justice Abang announced his decision to withdraw from the suit after seeing the petition.
The development came barely a week after the first judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, also of the Federal High Court in Abuja, withdrew from the case.
Justice Taiwo had withdrawn from the case after being accused of likelihood of bias by two parties to the suit.
He withdrew from the case on April 10, following which it was reassigned to Justice Abang.
But indication has emerged that Justice Kafarati had rejected Okorocha’s petition seeking the re-assignment of the case to the third judge as the matter came up before Justice Abang on Wednesday.
It was learnt that the Chief Judge returned the case file to Justice Abang on being satisfied with his response to Okorocha’s petition.
At the Wednesday’s proceedings Okorocha, who is of the APC opposed the PDP’s motion seeking to be joined in his suit.
Okorocha, through his counsel, Mr Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), objected the PDP’s application on the grounds that the application was brought in bad faith.
But PDP’s lawyer, Mr Stanley Imo, held that the objection to his client’s application for joinder by Okorocha was not well-founded.
Justice Abang agreed that the matter was time sensitive but assured all the parties of fair hearing.
He adjourned the matter until May 9 (Thursday) to rule on whether or not to join the PDP as a party in the suit.
INEC had refused to issue Okorocha the certificate of return on the basis that the Returning Officer for the February 23 election, Prof Francis Ibeawuchi, said he had announced the outgoing governor as winner of the senatorial election under duress.
Okorocha had subsequently filed his suit challenging INEC’s decision to withhold the certificate of return due to him as the winner of the election. (Punch)
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Some presiding officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said they transmitted official results from their polling units to the servers of the electoral body.
Their claims contradict the position of the commission which earlier claimed it did not transmit the result of this year’s presidential election electronically.
Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who lost the presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari, had petitioned the Presidential Election Tribunal over the outcome of the exercise.
Mr Abubakar, a former vice president said results from the servers of INEC clearly showed he won the election with 18,356,732 votes against Buhari’s 16,741,430 votes but INEC overturned his victory by claiming the president got 15,191,847 votes as against the 11,262,978 votes attributed to him.
But distancing itself from the claims of the former vice president, the electoral body denied it collated or transmitted results of the election to its servers online.
However, the submission of some presiding officers that conducted the election does not tally with the position of INEC.
They claimed that they were personally trained by the commission on how to transmit the result of the election to the commission’s servers.
This was made known in the petition filed by Atiku and his party through the respective Witness Statement of Oath they made.
According to News Telegraph, one of the PO from Borno State claimed to have received training on how to discharge his duties on the day of the exercise.
“I was employed as an ad hoc staff and trained for three days by the 1st Respondent at the Government College, Maiduguri, Bomo State to serve as a Presiding Officer (PO) at Waliri Polling Unit with Code 003, of Shehun Barna Ward, Bomo State on the 23rd February, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections,” the witness said.
“The training covered the duties of all 1st Respondent’s ad-hoc staff at the polling units and the procedure for the conduct of election which includes accreditation, verification, authentication, collation and transmission of results as well as the use of Smart Card Reader (SCR), amongst others.
“At the 1st Respondent training, we were specifically instructed that the use of the Smart Card Reader for accreditation, verification, authentication, collation and transmission of results is mandatory and that any election conducted without the use of the Smart Card Reader would be invalid.
“I took part in the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections of 23rd February, 2019 where I served as the Presiding Officer (PO) and I ensured the use of the Smart Card Reader for accreditation, verification, authentication, collation and transmission of votes in my polling unit.
“At the end of voting, the information on the Smart Card Reader with the results inclusive, were collated by me in the presence of the party agents and other ad-hoc staff of the 1st Respondent after which my Assistant Presiding Officer (AP0-1) transmitted the result electronically in my presence to the 1st Respondent’s server, using the Smart Card Reader (SCR) and the code provided by the 1st Respondent.”
Furthermore, in the witness statements of the Presiding Officer of Daza Primary School Code 001,Daze Marte Ward of Borno State, who was coded as BU; the Presiding Officer of Mustapha Ali Bama, Code 036, Mafoni MCC Ward, who was coded IM; the Presiding Officer of Binkalion Code 003, Maisandari Damaturu ward Yobe, coded as AB and APO of Kafan Sarki Code 007, Yabir-Gujba of Yobe state, coded as AW; they all admitted that the results of the Presidential election were transmitted electronically to INEC’s server. (Politicstimes)
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The Peoples Democratic Party’ s candidate in the February 23 presidential election , Alhaji Atiku Abubakar , has denied the All Progressives Congress’ allegation that he is not eligible to contest because he was not born in Nigeria .
Atiku stated this in a response to the APC’s reply to the petition he and his party jointly filed before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
He said he was born on November 25, 1946, in Jada, Adamawa State, therefore he was a Nigerian.
The APC had alleged in its response that as of November 25, 1946, when Atiku was born , Jada, was part of Northern Cameroon .
But Atiku insisted that he was a Nigerian citizen, adding that his parents were also Nigerians by birth.
He said while his father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir , hailed from Wumo in the present day Sokoto State, his mother, Aisha Kande, hailed from Dutse, now Jigawa State.
Atiku and the PDP said, “Contrary to the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 and 6 of the 3rd respondent’s ( APC’s) reply, the petitioners state that the 1st petitioner ( Atiku ) is a citizen of Nigeria by birth and thus qualified to vote and be voted for and returned in the election to the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, held on Saturday February 23, 2019 going by the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“The 1st petitioner was born on November 25, 1946, in Jada, Adamawa State, by Nigerian parents and he is, therefore, a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
“The 1st petitioner’s father, Garba Atiku Abdulkadir, was a Nigerian by birth who hailed from Wumo in the present day Sokoto State, while the mother, Aisha Kande , was also a Nigerian who hailed from Dutse in the present day Jigawa State.
“The parents of the 1st petitioner are both Fulani, a community/tribe indigenous to Nigeria .
“The birth of the 1st petitioner in Jada, in the present-day Adamawa State of Nigeria, was occasioned by the movement of his paternal grandfather called Atiku, who was an itinerant trader, from Wumo in the present-day Sokoto State to Jada in company of his friend , Ardo Usman.
“That in Jada, Atiku, the grandfather of the 1st petitioner, gave birth to Garba who in turn gave birth to the 1st petitioner and named him after his father, Atiku .
“The 1st petitioner’s mother, Aisha Kande, was the grand daughter of Inuwa Dutse who came to Jada as an itinerant trader too from Dutse in the present-day Jigawa State.
All averments concerning Germany, British Cameroons , League of Nations and Plebiscite are false and misleading in relation to the 1st petitioner and therefore completely irrelevant more so that the 1st petitioner is a Nigerian by birth within the contemplation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“The averments in the aforesaid paragraphs are indeed fabricated, contrived, made in bad faith and designed to embarrass the 1st petitioner. ”
The Independent National Electoral Commission had on February 27, 2019, declared that the All Progressives Congress alongside its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, won the February 23 election with 15,191, 847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, whom it said polled 11,262,978 votes.
But the petitioners stated that “from the data in the 1st respondent’s ( INEC’s) server … the true, actual and correct results” from “state-to -state computation” showed that Atiku polled a total of 18,356,732 votes defeat Buhari whom they said scored 16,741,430 votes.
INEC had in its response to the petition distanced itself from the “server results.”
The commission, through its lead counsel, Yunus Usman ( SAN ) , had said the results of the poll were never transmitted or collated electronically.
It added that it kept no such server where such electronically transmitted results could have been obtained.
In their reply to the APC’s reply, Atiku and the PDP insisted that they truly got authentic results of the February 23 election from the Independent National Electoral Commission’s server.
They said, “In reaction to paragraph 29 of the 3rd respondent’s reply, the petitioners aver that the data and scores in the 1st respondent’s server were as transmitted by the 1st respondent’s officials and those scores are valid, and legitimate.
“The conduct of elections and declarations of results by the 1st respondent is the subject of the present petition.
“Contrary to paragraphs 31 and 34 of the 3rd respondent’s reply, the petitioners contend that the figures and scores in paragraph 22 of the petition are neither false nor contrived or concocted by the petitioners .
“Indeed, the adhoc staff and officials of the 1st respondent in obedience to the training/instruction by the 1st respondent (INEC) transmitted the scores they got from the polling units to the 1st respondent’s server.” (Punch)
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