By Olisemeka Obeche
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insists it did not make use of electronic servers for transmission of results of the 2019 general elections despite spending well over N1.47 billion to replace and maintain computer servers before the polls.
INEc’s national commissioner and chairman of information and voter education committee, Barr Festus Okoye, said the commission did not use electronic servers for transmission of results during the general election because the amended Electoral Act was yet to be signed into law. “The Commission prepared and assumed that the amendment to the Electoral Act may be signed into law”, Okoye said.
The INEC chief who made the clarification while reacting to the controversy trailing the commission’s claims that it did not make use of server in the last election, also disclosed that the commission was ready to give account of the resources budgeted and used for the election.
On the claim by the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar that he was in possession of authentic results of the 2019 presidential election transmitted by INEC through the server, Okoye declared that “The onus is on the petitioners to prove their assertions relating to the issue of results and servers”.
INEC’s spokesperson, Rotimi Oyekanmi, also said the commission stood by the position made by its lawyer in court on the matter. “I cannot say anything outside what the lawyer said. What he said is the position of the commission,” Oyekanmi said.
Determining whether INEC operated a central computer database that received election results electronically during the February 23 presidential election has become a subject of dispute, after the PDP presidential candidate claimed results his team obtained from the server proved he defeated the incumbent candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari.
INEC had declared Buhari winner of the poll, but Abubakar, his main challenger, has rejected the decision, saying his win was suppressed by INEC. The former vice president, backed by his party, insisted that he won the election with about 1.6 million votes, contrasting the results released by INEC. Atiku claimed he sourced his figures from INEC’s database.
The electoral commission, however disputed the PDP candidate’s claims as well as deny transmitting election results electronically or saving them on a server. INEC equally accused Mr Abubakar and PDP of circulating fake results.
Although, it is not clear if INEC servers, which store computer data, were used during the February/March polls, there are growing concerns over the commission’s recent claim that it had no server for the elections despite budgetary provisions for it. Details of INEC’s budget for the 2019 elections, and the spending plan shows the electoral body collected from the federal government N1.47 billion for servers. The commission requested N2.27 billion.
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.
While it is not clear what servers INEC says it does not have, the budget details, published by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, a civil society group, showed INEC allocated N2.27 billion for servers in the N143.5 billion approved for the commission.
Another N157.5 million was budgeted for the renewal and maintenance of cloud infrastructure.
The National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC approved N143.5 billion for INEC for the 2019 general election as requested by the president. A breakdown of the budget for servers in the N143.5 billion indicates that N1.37 billion was budgeted for nationwide replacement of servers for 25 states and National Data Centre. The sum of N99.7 million budgeted for an upgrade of the server version of OpenVR for compatibility with new Dell server while N157.5 million budgeted for the renewal and maintenance of cloud infrastructure.”