Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
After several weeks of accusation, counter accusation, as well as denial, a recently leaked memo of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that the commission transmitted voter accreditation data during the 2019 presidential elections from Smart Card Readers (SCR) to a central server, as claimed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The leaked memo, dated March 25, 2019, was signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Rose Oriaran-Anthony, and posted on Twitter on Wednesday by a former aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri.
The electoral body had on February 27, 2019 declared President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the presidential election.
Despite the claim by the commission that Buhari mustered a total of 15,191,847 votes to defeat the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who scored 11,262,978 votes, the opposition party and his candidate headed to court to challenge his victory.
The former vice president and the PDP told the Presidential Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja that he rejected the results citing irregularities, while also claiming that data from the server of INEC revealed that his votes were reduced in 31 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Atiku also claimed that he defeated Buhari with 1,615,302 votes. He said data from INEC server showed that he actually polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari, who had 16,741,430 votes.
To give more credence to his claim, the former vice president also gave the “unique MAC address and Microsoft product ID of the INEC server,” from where he claimed the results were obtained.
According to him, “The servers from which the said figures were derived belongs to the first respondent (INEC). The figures and votes were transmitted to the first respondent’s Presidential Result’s Server 1 and thereafter aggregated in INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019, whose Physical Address or unique Mac Address is 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-7000000000-AA535. The above descriptions are unique to the 1st respondent’s server.”
However, the electoral body argued at the tribunal that it did not transmit results through electronic channels, but used manual collation as stipulated by law.
INEC according to it excerpts filings before the tribunal said, “It does not share information with such an unclassified entity and any information purportedly derived therefrom which does not accord with the result as declared by INEC is not authentic but rather was invented for the purpose. INEC specifically denies the existence of electronic transmission of results and it is unknown to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).”
But the INEC manual used for the training of ad-hoc staff prior to the elections proved otherwise, because it states in ‘Step 6’ under closing of polls that the Presiding Officer shall “send the number of voters verified from Smart Card Reader to INEC back end server.”
Meanwhile, the recently leaked memo, Oriaran-Anthony directed INEC resident electoral commissioners to provide feedback on challenges experiences during the elections, including failure to transmit voter accreditation data to a server.
She also instructed the Residents Electoral Commission (RECs) to direct their respective heads of department (ICT) to download the list of the polling units without accreditation data for their states from a provided web link.
Oriaran-Anthony stated: “The commission has observed, with deep concerns, the number of smart card readers that do not have data of accredited voters in the just concluded presidential/NASS elections nationwide.
“The total number of SCRs without accreditation data is 4,786 nationwide, which stands at about 4 per cent of the total SCRs deployed for that election. Attached is the chart, showing the PUs not uploaded to the SCR accreditation backend, for each of the states.” “You are please requested to liaise with your Head of Department (HOD) election operations and the electoral officers to provide comments beside each PU, stating why there are no accreditation data.
“The comments should reflect what happened to the SCR or the results of the PU: covering cases where election did not hold, cancellation of PU result, stolen or destroyed SCRs, etc. This should be submitted in both soft and hard copies, latest by Thursday, 28th May, 2019.”
For instance, the chart showed that in Abia state, the total number of Poll Units (Pus) is 2,675; the number of PUs with SCR data is 2,590, number of PU without SCR data is 85, while compliance with SCR usage was 96.8 per cent.
In Ekiti, total number of Poll units is 2,195, the number of PUs with SCR data is 2,194, number of PU without SCR data is 1, while compliance with SCR usage was 100 per cent
In plateau, the total number of PUs is 2,631, the number of PUs with SCR data is 2,506, the number of PUs without SCR data is 125, while compliance with SCR usage was 95.2 per cent
Also, in Kano, the total number of PUs is 8,074, Number of PUs with SCR data is 7,765 number of PU without SCR data is 309, while compliance with SCR usage was 96.2 per cent
In Rivers State, the total number of PUs is 4,442, the number of PUs with SCR data is 3,344, number of PU without SCR data is 1,098, while compliance with SCR usage was 76.3 per cent, making it the least state to have complied to the SCR usage
Besides, a corps member who served in Ibadan, Oyo state and simply identified herself as Adenike told THISDAY that all the results of the 2019 elections were transmitted to the central server. She added that as Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) during the election, her job was to transmit the result electronically.
According to her, “All the results were transmitted. It is the work of APO to transmit results.”
To further prove his case before the tribunal, Atiku had through his counsel said he would present 400 witnesses before the tribunal, with the parties agreeing to workable modalities in the management of time to ensure the petition was dispensed within the 180 days allowed by the Electoral Act.
Based on the agreement, ten days was allotted to the petitioners to open and close their argument, which commenced on July 4 and would expire on July 17.
The witnesses presented by Atiku so far, told the tribunal how thugs of the APC in connivance with security agents chased agents of the petitioners away for INEC to carry out the alleged manipulation of the results. They said in some instances where results submitted from the polling units and wards did not tally, the returning officer had to ask them to go back and correct it, leading to a lot of mutilation and cancellation in most of the results sheets.
Some of the witnesses said that while the security officials had ignored the complaints about the anomalies surrounding the conduct of the election, INEC officials told them to take their complaints and whatever grievances they have to the election tribunal.
Based on the above, a witness from Kaduna State, Major Yahaya Sikko, earlier in his evidence, had told the tribunal that wrong figures were accredited to Buhari and APC making him to refuse to sign the result sheet as required by law.
He told the tribunal that the abnormalities affected the results released by the electoral umpire. The witness said in his presence results were doctored by APC agents with the full backing of security personnel.
Another witness from Kaduna, AbdulRaman Usman, who corroborated the claims of over voting and allocation of results to parties in Kaduna State, said he could not sign Form EC8A because the form was not made available to the agents of the petitioners as required by law.
In his evidence, the Borno State Collation Officer, Nicholas Msheila, said he rejected most results in the 27 local government areas in the state because they were fraudulent.
Though the witness said the results declared by INEC exceeded the number of accredited voters, he could not give the figure of the accredited voters.
Msheila told the five-member tribunal that in all the results tendered in the state, there was evidence of mistake.
“The state collation officer would ask them to go back and reconcile results before returning,” he added.
Also testifying, Adams Ali Sanni admitted that he did not sign results sheets as agents of the petitioners because results were altered in his presence while votes cast for Atiku and PDP were reduced also in his presence.
He alleged that apart from unlawful cancellation of results, PDP agents were chased away by thugs of the APC to allow free falsification of results in favour of Buhari.
A witness from Bauchi State, Yau Yusuf, in attesting to claim of rigging, harassment and intimidation of voters, said election results were torn by a particular agent of the APC in the presence of INEC officials at INEC headquarters in Dass Local Government Area, yet nothing was done.
He added that the results announced by INEC were a reproduced copy while the police took the torn copy with a promise to prosecute the perpetrator.
All the witnesses from Borno stated that the results declared by INEC in Borno State could not have been true because of the issue of insurgency and bomb blast that prevented many people from casting their votes.