Will INEC Deploy Server for Bayelsa Elections?

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Saturday letter2

Barely four months to the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States and with the controversy on the usage of the server hovering over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the commission may be in a fix on possibility of using a server for the upcoming elections. Although the court has taken a decision on permission to access the server that has been initially declared non-existent, stakeholders have interpreted the judgement in different ways. This is despite the fact that elections observation group like YIAGA AFRICA revealed that its observers saw INEC officials “attempting” to transmit elections result to a server. Reports from media say officials of the commission confessed to have transmitted results to a server. While some believe the court decision further reaffirms non-existent of server, others think the court only decided it’s too early to access the server at the preliminary stage of the litigation.

It is no brainer that the commission transmitted results to a server using the smart card reader during off-circle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun in 2018. The only logical explanation for this is the expectation that the new electoral law will be signed into law and thus electronic transmission can be implemented during the 2019 elections.  This is apparently why transmission of results using smart card reader was also in the electoral guideline for the 2019 elections. The conundrum here however is that the lack of assent to the electoral law means information on the server remains unharnessed as it has not been used to publicly authenticate manual data of either accreditation or results.

This article is not in any way taking readers back to the 2019 Presidential election tribunal on the server controversy as Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said he will address the server controversy that trailed the 2019 general elections, after the Presidential Elections Tribunal.  All the same, there is need to forecast the plans of the commission with the use of server in the upcoming off-circle governorship elections.

Arguments abound on the idea of electronic voting or at least electronic transmission of election results. It is to provide a transparent evidence vis-à-vis results pasted at polling units and collation centers.  Political analysts have said electronic voting and result transmission to server is the solution to the consistent electoral hitches. Although this is subject to assent to the new electoral act, analysts believe that the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa election is another opportunity for the commission to sincerely test run its server ahead of subsequent elections pending when the electoral law is signed.

In a bid to overcome the electoral conundrum, it is pertinent for the commission, civil society organistions and political parties to push for assent to the new electoral act which will solve a lot of electoral issues in Nigeria. It is believed that electronic voting will eradicate rigging, multiple registrations and voting while cases of political violence and hijacking of ballot boxes will be easily checkmated. Adopting this process for Nigeria’s democracy will not only increase transparency but will also boost citizen’s confidence in the process while further improving participation in the process.

Moshood Isah, Media Officer, YIAGA AFRICA