The decision of the National Assembly leadership to allow electronic voting without electronic transmission of election results has not gone down well with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the electoral body statutory empowered by the 1999 Constitution as amended, to conduct elections in the country has berated the federal lawmakers for not behaving as statesmen.
It also faulted a claim by one of the officials of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) that electronic transmission of results was not realisable due to poor network coverage across the country.
INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Elder Nick Dazang, who gave the position of the Commission yesterday while on African Independent Television (AIT) breakfast programme ‘Kakaaki’ faulted a claim by the NCC official who appeared before the House of Representatives as “blatant lie”.
Dazang revealed that the Commission was traumatised that a sister commission- NCC which had been in the know since 2018 that INEC had the capacity and capability to transmit results electronically should come back in 2021 to attest that electronic transmission of election results was no longer possible in Nigeria.
“In January 2018, INEC approached NCC that it wants a technological-driven Commission and both have been working closely to deliver free, fair and credible elections in our country for the benefit of our citizens. They are also aware that two network providers- MTN and Airtel have assisted JAMB conduct their examinations across Nigeria. So INEC is still wondering why NCC has suddenly made a U-turn that there is not enough network coverage in every part of Nigeria,” he said.
The INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education, however, said NCC was on its own as INEC had gone beyond rhetorics to try the new innovations designed to clean up Nigeria’s tainted electoral processes which he said worked perfectly well in the off season governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states as well as states and National Assembly bye-elections across Nigeria.
“I am convinced that if INEC was given the chance to appear before the National Assembly alongside NCC, the Commission would have told the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members that all the network providers in Nigeria have assured INEC that network coverage is 100 per cent across the country,” Dazang insisted.
On the fear of hacking of INEC’s official websites, the top director allayed the fears of the public, saying “there is no website that is not prone to attack by hackers even in the most advanced nations but Nigerians should be rest assured that INEC has what it takes to fight off hackers and the Commission is well prepared to safeguard its websites against hackers.”
The INEC spokesman has urged the two chambers of the National Assembly to be patriotic enough to reverse their earlier decisions to vote against electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria, adding that they should consider the image of the country in the comity of civilised democratic nations.
“As a patriotic Nigerian who wishes his country well, I am using this medium to plead to the Conference Committee of NASS to look at the bigger picture, and to consider the future of our nation to approve the electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
“I also want NASS members to think like “Statesmen”, they should think about the future not about the next election. Let us always look at the bigger picture. It pains INEC that beneficiaries of transparent elections are in the forefront of working to weaken the Commission by asking INEC to share its powers with other agencies or take permission from another agency before performing its statutory functions guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria.”
Dazang argued that the constitution has given INEC the powers which cannot be shared with any agency of government, pointing out that the new directive of the Senate on e-transmission is akin to stripping INEC of its powers.
“How can you do electronic voting but leave out the electronic transmission of the results. It does not make any sense,” he noted.
He insisted that INEC is determined to deepen technology in the conduct of elections in Nigeria, which he said has started since 2011.