Some opposition parties on Monday faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission for its failure to transmit the results of Saturday’s presidential election on its website even as lawyers support INEC’s decision to go ahead with the declaration of results. Gift Habib writes on the controversy
On Saturday, registered voters used their permanent voter cards to elect the next president. The poll was held simultaneously with elections for representatives to the country’s parliament.
Despite the late arrival of election officials and materials at many polling units and technical issues with biometric identification machines in some cases, Nigerians were waiting patiently for the election results to be uploaded immediately at the Independent National Electoral Commission result viewing portal as promised by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
Yakubu had said that results would be transmitted to the IReV portal in real-time on election day, saying that the commission is not going back on its decision.
Speaking at a meeting with leaders of foreign election observers last week, Yakubu said raw election figures would not be transmitted electronically, adding that the presiding officers would be required to use the Bimodal Voter Verification System to snap the election results on the results sheet from each polling unit, and upload them on IReV for Nigerians to see.
The INEC chairman said the decision not to transmit raw figures electronically was taken to avoid hacking, as raw figures were more susceptible to hacking.
Yakubu explained, “The BVAS confirms that the cards issued by the commission and presented by the voter are genuine, and the voter is authenticated using the fingerprint and, where that fails, the facial. Where both fail, the voter can’t vote. That is a matter of law.
“After the process is completed at the polling unit, the image of the polling unit result will be taken by the BVAS and uploaded into what we call the INEC Result Viewing Portal, where citizens can see polling unit level results as the processes are completed at the polling unit level.”
The IReV was put to use in the recent off-season elections, including the Ekiti and Osun governorship polls, which gave credibility to the exercise.
The portal is also backed by the Electoral Act 2022, which gives INEC the power to deploy appropriate technologies for the conduct of elections in the country.
The national collation agents for different political parties walked out of the National Collation Centre on Monday over alleged rigging by INEC.
They accused INEC of violating the Electoral Act by going ahead with the result collation and announcement despite not uploading the results on the IREV portal.
Agents of some other parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party’s Dino Melaye and Emeka Ihedioha; the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Umar Ibrahim; and an agent of the Action Alliance, Kenneth Udeze, among others, expressed similar views.
Melaye raised observations before Yakubu and asked the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Kwara State to proceed with the announcement of results from the North-Central state.
He had alleged over-voting in the results presented from the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State, basing his argument on the provisions of Section 65 of the Electoral Act.
The former senator explained, “I worked on the results as presented, and I discovered that we have 987,647 registered voters in Ekiti and 301,558 accredited.
“The results were presented on Sunday; APC had 201,494 votes. If you subtract that from 301,558, what you have left is 100,064. The PDP received 89,554 votes out of a total of 100,064. If you subtract that from the balance of 100,064, you’ll have 10,510, and now it is also recorded that the Labour Party had 12,397 when the total left is 10,510. Meaning an over figure of 887.
“Apart from this 887 surplus, we have not calculated the votes of other political parties. You will recall that on Sunday, he told us that ADC scored 1,027.
“You will see from that presentation on Sunday that the figure did not add up, there was over-voting, and the number of votes outnumbered the number of accredited voters, and we know exactly what the law says concerning that.”
Melaye further accused the commission of bypassing transmission of results through the IREV and contravening provisions of Section 47(3) of the Electoral Act.
He asked the chairman of INEC to mandate Resident Electoral Commissioners to clarify before making a formal presentation of results at the point of voting before the results were transmitted.
Corroborating Melaye, the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Faruk Ibrahim, demanded that the Ekiti results be looked into.
Amidst the controversy over collation of results, based records of INEC in states as of 6pm on Tuesday, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who had got 6, 142, 419 votes, was leading his PDP counterpart, former Atiku Abubakar, who got 4, 647, 554 votes and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who garnered 1, 347, 325 votes.
In 2015, the PDP protested the decision of INEC to investigate the petition of the APC against the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Rivers State. The party particularly accused the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, of not only being biased but also partial and tribalistic.
Former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, and Col. Bello Fadile, who represented the party at the Presidential Election Results Collation Centre, at the International Conference Centre accused the INEC boss of secretly working for the APC.
Orubebe, whose open protest temporarily halted proceedings at the collation centre, said the party had lost confidence in both Jega and his INEC and demanded expeditious treatment of its petition against the elections in some states of the North.
In 2019, the PDP called on INEC to immediately halt the ongoing collation and announcement of results at the National Collation Centre.
The Deputy Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Tanimu Turaki, insisted that the results as announced by INEC so far had been tampered with.
Turaki said, “We have evidence from the smart card reader accreditation data that what is being announced by INEC has been seriously tampered with and manipulated.”
The party has also demanded the outright cancellation of results from Zamfara and Borno States, as well as the restoration of votes allegedly cancelled from the party’s votes in Kogi and Nasarawa States.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Matthew Burkaa, said no one could stop the collation of results coming in from different states at the collation centre. He added that political parties had agents in each stage of result collation, advising that Melaye and others should seek legal redress if not satisfied.
Burkaa explained, “An election is a process that begins at the polling units and ends at the collation centre. At that point in the collation centre, only collation remains to complete the process. No one can stop anything at that point because what the law provides is that when you start at the polling unit in EC8A, you transfer to the ward in EC8B and from EC8B to the local government and to the state. At the stage at which Dino was making that particular objection, state elections were already underway.
“One has the right to make whatever observations one wants to make at the polling units, and the question is this: where one will have an issue is where what is being presented at the state level is different from what the agent gave you. Each political party has an agent at the polling unit at the ward, LG, and state level. Before the results get to the collation centre, For example, let’s say they want to call Nasarawa State. At that point, every agent of a political party sitting down at that point is already holding the result of the Nasarawa State election in his hand. If the result of Nasarawa state in his hand is 200,000 and they are announcing 200,500, the party agent will say what I am holding in my hand is 200,000 and not 200,500. So if the party agent is holding 200,000, and they are announcing 200,000, what then is the cause for alarm?
“Under the new Electoral Act, there are certain innovations. INEC can, after seven days of declaration, review an election that was not declared in accordance with the law or was declared under duress. So there are legal windows for individuals to explore and express their grievances. Dino and others do not need to vent their grievances at the centre because it does not change anything there.”
Another lawyer, Oludare Williams, noted that everyone had the right to complain because we are in a constitutional democracy. However, he stated that the aggrieved political parties should approach the tribunal with their complaints and facts.
William said, “Everybody has the right to complain, either rightly or wrongly, which cannot be challenged,” and that was why Dino and others stood there. While some of their requests were right, others were not at all right, ranging from election cancellation to his request to start the election all over again. They are not thinking about the stress of conducting an election for 87 million registered voters and the risks and all the other sacrifices that have brought this election thus far to where we are.
“Let them complain and gather all the complaints, and if the political parties see that INEC has not addressed the issue, they can approach the election tribunals with all their complaints and facts. Although the National Chairman, INEC, has the right to cancel some of the elections where there was obvious over-voting, if they so much believe in the complaints, they should approach the court.”