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INEC presiding officers Testify under Oath, Say Results were Transmitted Electronically

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No fewer than a dozen people who said they were deployed as electoral officers by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 presidential election have admitted under oath that they transmitted results electronically.

A question about whether or not results were forwarded to a central database of the commission has been amongst the top grounds for contesting the presidential election results by Atiku Abubakar and his opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Mr Abubakar was the main challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 23 elections.

On February 27, the electoral umpire declared Mr Buhari winner of the elections, and issued him a certificate of return for a second four-year term starting May 29.

Mr Abubakar and his PDP challenged the results at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal last month, saying he won the election and was in possession of evidence that would upturn the declared outcome.

Mr Abubakar’s legal team submitted a different result to the tribunal, which showed the former vice-president as the winner of the election. The result showed Mr Abubakar had scored 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari, whom they said received 16,741,430 votes.

This contradicted the results declared by INEC, which said Mr Buhari received 15,191,847 votes against Mr Abubakar’s 11,262,978 votes.

Mr Abubakar’s lawyers said the results were released by an INEC whistleblower who had access to the commission’s internal server and other tools throughout the election.

They also provided unique identification information of computers that they said belonged to INEC, which they expected experts from Microsoft, IBM and Oracle to corroborate.

In its initial response to Mr Abubakar’s petition, INEC strongly denied operating a server during the election, saying such activities were not permitted by the electoral law. The commission accused Mr Abubakar of circulating fake results for the purpose of his petition.

Mr Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also sided with the electoral umpire and alleged criminal interception of a public institution’s communication by Mr Abubakar and the PDP.

In a response to INEC’s denial of the server and its purported result, Mr Abubakar’s legal team attached affidavits from 12 persons they said worked for INEC.

The persons, according to the affidavits, said they worked as presiding officers and assistant presiding officers in Borno and Yobe. They were only identified in the documents by their initials, but a source close to Mr Abubakar told PREMIUM TIMES the witnesses will ultimately identify themselves in court.

The witnesses comprise seven presiding officers and five assistant presiding officers. They were six each from Borno and Yobe, and swore they were adequately recruited and trained by the commission ahead of the election.

“We were specifically instructed that the use of the smart card reader for accreditation, verification, authentication, collation
and transmission of results is mandatory and that any election conducted without the use of the smart card reader would be invalid.

“I took part in the conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) elections…where I served as the presiding officer (PO) and I ensured the use of the smart card reader for accreditation, verification, authentication, collation and transmission of votes in my polling unit.

“At the end of voting, the information on the smart card reader, the results inclusive were collated by me in the presence of the party agents and other ad-hoc staff of the 1st respondent after which my assistant presiding officer (AP0-1) transmitted the result electronically in my presence to INEC’s server using the smart card reader and the code provided by the commission,” a typical testimony from one of the witnesses read.

The wording of the affidavits was identical. Assistant presiding officers also swore they sent the results to a designated INEC server.

Meanwhile, the 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.

The group’s director, Samson Itodo, said the data only captured polling officers who made attempts to transmit results using smart card readers. It could not confirm whether or not the transmissions were successful.

A spokesperson for INEC declined comments to PREMIUM TIMES about the comments of the presiding officers and their assistants.

The officers are usually deployed for elections on ad-hoc basis, and most of them were not the commission’s employees.

An election expert and director at one of the main election observer groups told PREMIUM TIMES some results were transmitted via the smart card readers, but were only designed to aggregate results from across the country.

“There were some polling units whose card readers were used to transmit results on election day for aggregation,” the expert said under anonymity because of his closeness to the commission and also to avoid publicly commenting on a matter already in court.

He suggested that INEC’s outright denial of electronic transmission of results could be because neither the electoral law nor its guidelines made provisions for electronic transmission of results.

“The law and the guidelines allowed only manual transmission in all the stages of the results collation,” the expert said. “That may be why the commission decided to deny using electronic means for its own internal compilation.”

He said only the court could hold INEC responsible for any discrepancy in its internal results and what the commission declared to the public.

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Maina: Court Grants Ndume Bail

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has granted bail to the Borno South Senator, Ali Ndume, who has been detained in prison since Monday over his suretyship for Abdulrasheed Maina believed to have jumped bail.

Justice Okon Abang in a ruling on Friday said he chose to grant the senator bail based on his record of good behaviour before the court, notwithstanding that the other grounds of his bail application failed.

The judge granted bail to the senator pending the hearing and determination of Ndume’s appeal filed at the Court of Appeal to challenge Monday’s order sending him to jail for his inability to produce the fleeing Maina.

He ordered the senator to produce one surety who must be a resident of Abuja and present evidence of ownership of property anywhere in Abuja.

According to the judge, the surety must also depose to an affidavit of means to indicate his readiness to forfeit the bail guaranty should the senator jump bail.

The judge also ordered the senator to deposit his passport with the Chief Registrar of the court.

He also ordered the lawmaker to file an undertaking that he would compile records of appeal and transmit it to the Court of Appeal within 10 days, a way the court wants him to demonstrate his readiness to prosecute his appeal.

Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, is being prosecuted by the EFCC on charges of money laundering involving N2bn.

On November 18, 2020, Justice Abang revoked the bail granted him, ordered his arrest, and directed that his trial would proceed in absentia.

The judge also on Monday remanded Ndume in prison until he produced Maina or paid the sum of N500m bail bond to the Federation Account.

Ndume, through his lawyer, Marcel Oru, had on Tuesday filed an appeal against the remand order at the Court of Appeal, along with an application for the bail of the defendant filed before Justice Abang.

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Trump Gives Condition to Vacate White House

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United States President Donald Trump says he will relinquish power if the Electoral College affirms Democrat Joe Biden’s win but he signals he may never formally concede defeat, Bloomberg reports.

The 74-year-old Republican candidate, who lost his re-election bid, also declined to say if he would  attend Biden’s inauguration next year, as is the custom for an outgoing president. “I’ll be honest, I know the answer, but I just don’t want to say it yet,” he said, adding that it is “not right” that Biden has begun picking a cabinet.

Trump fielded questions from reporters on Thursday for the first time since his election defeat, speaking at the White House after a Thanksgiving teleconference with members of the military.

When asked by reporter gathered at the White House’s diplomatic room if he would physically leave the building should the Electoral College affirms Biden’s victory, Trump replied, “certainly I will, and you know that.” But he swiftly maintained that there was “massive fraud and massive rigging” in the election, insisting that the court cases challenging the election outcome will continue.

Trump was further pressed on whether he would ever acknowledge defeat but said it would “be a very hard thing to concede,” even if the Electoral College confirms Biden’s victory. “If they do, they’ve made a mistake,” he said. “This election was a fraud.”

The Electoral College electors in each state are due to vote on December 14. Certificates recording the electoral vote results in each state must be received by the president of the Senate no later than December 23. Biden is certified as the winner, or leading, in states totaling 306 electoral votes, well above the victory threshold of 270, while Trump got 232 electoral votes.

Trump further noted that he was running out of time to present evidence of the massive fraud he was sketching out – a signal that the evidence may never come.

He also acknowledged that the whole world is watching what becomes the fate of American democracy. “The whole world is watching and the whole world is laughing at our electoral process,” he said.

Trump, however, declined to say if he would seek the presidency again in 2024, as has been widely rumoured. “I don’t want to talk about 2024 yet,” he replied.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that major world leaders including those from China, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany and other European as well as African States congratulated Biden and his vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, after US cable networks projected the two winners of the keenly contested election.

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Sultan Laments Free Operation of Bandits in North, Says Region Worst Place to Live

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The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, on Thursday lamented the high rate of insecurity in the North, saying it was the worst place in the country  to live.

The Sultan, who stated this at the fourth  quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council in Abuja, said bandits were fast overrunning the North as residents  slept  with their eyes open.

The meeting had as  its  theme, ‘Questioning for peace in the challenges of insecurity and COVID-19’

While describing the North as the worst place to live, he said that bandits had  become daring.

He said  they moved  from house to house, village to village, market to market, with AK-47 rifles  openly, purchasing foodstuffs and other items and even collecting  change without any challenge from the security agencies.

The foremost traditional ruler stated  that the security system in the North had completely collapsed.

He said, “Security situation in Northern Nigeria has assumed a worrisome situation. Few weeks ago, over 76 persons were killed in a community in Sokoto in a day. I was there with  the governor to commiserate with the affected community.

“Unfortunately, you don’t hear these stories in the media because it’s in the North. We have accepted the fact that the North does not  have strong media to report the atrocities of these bandits.

“People think North is safe but that assumption is not true. In fact, it’s the worst place to be in this country because bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK 47 and nobody is challenging them.

“They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, with their weapons openly displayed. These are facts, I know because I am at the centre of it.

“I am not only a traditional ruler, I am also a religious leader. So, I am in a better place to tell the story. I can speak for the North in this regard because I am fully aware of the security challenges there. We have to sincerely and seriously find solutions to the problem, otherwise, we will find ourselves soon, in a situation where we would lose sleep because of insecurity.”

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Ignatius Kaigama, outlined a code of conduct for both Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.

He said, “We Christians and Muslims must avoid imposing our religious views on others or denying them public amenities, jobs or influential positions because they don’t belong to our faith.

“Merit, not the vigour of our religious piety or affiliation should determine all we do or get in this country. We should not unjustly or corruptly deprive others of their rights, not to talk of wounding or killing anyone for economic or partisan political interests or because of blind religious zeal.

“It is preposterous that Nigerians clamouring for their rights and privileges from government would turn their anger on religious institutions by attacking Churches and Mosques, instigating Christians and Muslims to turn against one another or to destroy public amenities and infrastructure

“We understand that the budget for national and state security is huge. Let us not deceive ourselves that the bigger the budget the more peace will flow. Weapons don’t bring peace.

What we need is a change of attitude, a conversion of heart; an objective appraisal of the religious or ethnic indoctrination we perhaps were subjected to in schools or at home. If we are only propelled by religious interests that exclude others we shall always remain in chaos and darkness.

The President, Christian Association of Nigeria and co-Chairman of NIREC, Dr Samson Ayokunle, while thanking God for saving the nation from the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to other countries, urged government to always tackle problem before it degenerated.

He asked the government to quickly reverse the recent decision to hike the price of electricity and fuel.

Ayokunle said, “That’s not what we send them to do for us. The decision, evidently, has added to our pains and they should reverse it as quickly as possible.

“The development that led to #EndSARS protest was quite unfortunate, and one of that development is police brutality which ought to be addressed before now.

“We have never witnessed such a mass action in Nigeria before. People were frustrated and because those in power didn’t respond appropriately until it degenerated to that level.

“But attributing the actions of the angry youths to a particular religion or ethnic group is insincere and unsafe. No religious group was exempted from the effect of the protest. The action was a spontaneous action that cannot  be attributed to any religion or ethnic group.”

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, regretted that the nation was still faced with insecurity despite the government’s efforts.

“Today, despite all efforts including the deployment of enormous resources, our country still faces a measure of insecurity which is impacting negatively on our economy, social life, education of children and young persons, investment and remains a threat to lives and livelihood,” he said.

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