The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insisted that it has the capacity to transmit election results electronically, contrary to the stance of the National Assembly.
Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, said this in an interview on Saturday following the controversy over the recently passed amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.
Clause 52 of the electoral act amendment bill, the section dealing with electronic transmission of election results, generated enormous controversy in the Senate and House of Representatives, with both lawmakers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) taking different stances.
The Senate passed the bill on Thursday, but with APC senators voting for an amendment stating that the “Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the national assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results”.
However, PDP senators opposed the amendment stripping INEC of the sole power to transmit the election results electronically.
At the House of Representatives, the lawmakers after a heavy dispute for two days decided on Friday to approve its own proviso of the clause stating that “the Commission may transmit results of election through electronic means where and when practicable”.
Reacting, Okoye said INEC has already demonstrated its capacity to deploy technology to safely and efficiently conduct elections, adding that the e-transmission of results is not different.
According to him, the electoral umpire wants the sole power to decide how to transmit election results electronically and is not in support of the proposed piece of the legislation subjugating its constitutional powers to the NCC and the National Assembly.
He stated the Commission will continue to pilot different solutions using technology to ensure the integrity of elections in Nigeria.
“INEC has the capacity to transmit election results from the polling units to the Registration Area Collation Centres to the Local Government Collation Centres, the various state, federal and senatorial district collation centres, and the state and national collation centres,” Okoye told the Punch.
“The Joint Technical Committee constituted by the commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission and made of telecommunication operators met on March 9, 2018, and the consensus was that the requirements for the electronic transfer of results proposed by INEC is practicable. The meeting, therefore, agreed that the solution that INEC wants to deploy is possible.
“We have the assurance of the service providers that they have provided similar technological solutions to other agencies and have the capacity to deploy technology to cover a few blind spots.
“The commission will continue to pilot different solutions bearing in mind that technology is dynamic and can limit human interference in the electoral process. The commission wants broad powers to deploy technology and is not in favour of a particular solution being written into the law.
“The commission is a creation of the constitution and the law and its powers are derived from the constitution. The constitution has also given the National Assembly the power to make laws but such powers must not be in conflict with and or at variance with the provisions of the constitution.
“We will continue to implement the provisions of the Electoral Act to the extent of its consistency with the constitution, as the constitution is the fundamental law of the land. The commission will continue to build integrity and trust in the electoral process.
“The commission has piloted and continues to pilot various electronic solutions that will improve the integrity of the electoral process. Presently, all the registered political parties upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates electronically.”
Okoye stated that domestic election observers and the media already apply for accreditation to observe and cover elections electronically and disclosed that political parties would, henceforth, submit the names and photographs of their polling agents electronically.
He added that the commission would continue to deploy existing technology to upload the results from polling units
He said: “The commission uploads Form EC8A, being polling unit results to a central viewing portal. Since 2020, the commission has been uploading these results from different parts of the country.
“The commission has used and will continue to use the existing technology to upload the results from polling units. The commission has uploaded results from polling units in Southern Ijaw with its difficult riverine and difficult terrain. The commission uploaded results from areas that are only accessible through human carriers.
“The commission uploaded results from conflict areas. The commission uploaded results from all geopolitical zones. Presently, the commission has obtained the GPS coordinates of all the 176,846 polling units in the country and expanded voter access to the polling units.
“Currently, the commission is carrying out part of the continuous voter registration exercise online, while the physical registration of voters will be done using INEC Voter Enrolment Device that will capture the fingerprints and facials of registrants.”