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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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Nigeria Outlines Nine Focal Areas to Guide Foreign Policy in Next Four Years

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Nigeria has identified nine priority areas that would guide its foreign policy actions in the next four years.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known in Abuja while briefing members of the diplomatic corps on the priorities of the Nigerian government.

The priority areas include building a striving sustainable economy; enlarging agricultural output, food security and export; as well as attaining energy sustenance and power.

Others include expanding transport and other infrastructural products; expanding business growth entrepreneurship and industrialisation; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigeria; enhancing social inclusion, reducing poverty; fighting corruption; as well as improving governance and security for all.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in the first term of the present administration, the government’s priority was in three key areas, namely: fighting corruption, tackling insecurity, and job creation.

He said Nigeria’s foreign policy would henceforth be realistic in terms of reflecting the domestic reality of putting “Nigeria First”.

“We promote within the African Union (AU) good governance, democracy, and protection of human rights.

“We are not in any kind of conflict with any country in the whole world and we have excellent relations with every member state of AU and UN.

“We believe firmly that peaceful coexistence and security are pre-conditions for economic development and prosperity.

“We believe that the UN and multilateralism are forces for good.

“We strongly support the UN, although we call for its reform especially to increase the number of its permanent members in its security council to include at least three African countries with veto powers,” he added.

The minister said more funds should be made available for UN peace-keeping operations.

Mr Onyeama, who said that the UN was doing a great job across many countries of the world, urged countries to continue to abide by UN resolutions, not choosing which ones to respect and which not to respect.

He condemned the use of force for the settlement of disputes and expressed strong support for institutions such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for International conflict resolution.

He said international trade and economic diplomacy were the main focus of “our foreign policy.”

“We have to expand our trade; we have to innovate; we have to industrialise in order to lift our people out of poverty.

“We are striving to increase bilateral trade with all your countries very often within the framework of a bilateral commission.”

The minister disclosed that the ministry was building an online business machine portal to promote and facilitate cross-border trade.

According to him, global climate action has posed a lot of threat to lives.

He said the Lake Chad which had been a major source of livelihood for more than 30 million people, had shrunk by 90 per cent due to climate change.

He noted that irregular migration has been condemned and possible measures have been put in place to address it.

On border closure, the minister said the issue would be resolved very soon and that it would be a win-win situation for stakeholders.

He thanked the diplomats for their support and assured them of the Nigeria’s continued support.

(NAN)

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Buhari Embarks on First 2020 Foreign Trip, Departs for UK Today

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President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Friday for London to participate in the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit holding on January 20.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said the event would be hosted by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

The organisers said the event is expected to bring together African leaders, international business chief executives and heads of international organisations “to create new partnerships that will deliver more investments and jobs” to the benefit of people and businesses in African countries and the United Kingdom.

“Apart from highlighting new perspectives on UK-Africa Partnership for Prosperity, issues of Sustainable Finance and Infrastructure; Trade and Investment; Future African Growth Sectors and Clean Energy and Climate, are expected to dominate presentations and discussions during the Summit.

“With the expected take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in mid-2020, the London investment summit will provide Nigeria with the opportunity to project itself as a leading investment destination for new industries.

“In addition, the summit will deepen Nigeria-United Kingdom investment ties post-Brexit given that Africa currently represents just two per cent of British trade activity, with Nigeria accounting for only 10 per cent of that total,” Mr Adesina stated.

He further disclosed that the Nigerian delegation to the investment meeting will showcase what the federal government had done through policies and legislation to improve the investment and business climate in the country.

While in the United Kingdom, the presidential aide said, Mr Buhari will meet with the Head of the Commonwealth, Prince Charles in Glasgow, Scotland.

“The president and his delegation will also have bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Johnson as well as heads of multilateral organisations,” he added.

He said the president would be accompanied to the Summit by Governors Yahaya Bello, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya and Okezie Ikpeazu of Kogi, Gombe and Abia States, respectively.

Also on the presidential entourage are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

Others include the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

Mr Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Thursday.

(NAN)

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Power Grid Collapses Twice in Two Hours, Worsens Nationwide Blackout

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The nation’s power grid collapsed twice in two hours on Thursday, worsening the blackout being experienced by consumers in parts of the country.

The grid, which is being managed by government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria, has continued to suffer system collapse over the years amid a lack of spinning reserve that is meant to forestall such occurrences.

The TCN announced that a system disturbance occurred at about 12.34pm on Thursday, affecting some parts of the country.

“As at 1:10pm, supply was restored to Abuja and most parts of the affected areas. The TCN is still working to completely restore and stabilise the nation’s grid,” it said.

Ikeja Electric and Eko Electricity Distribution Company, two of the nation’s distribution companies, had earlier on Twitter informed their customers about the cause of the outage in Lagos.

“Dear customer, the outage you’re experiencing is due to a system collapse of the grid which occurred this afternoon at 12.36hrs. All parts of IE’s network are affected. Efforts are ongoing to restore the grid. Kindly bear with us,” Ikeja Electric said.

The Disco, in another tweet two hours later, said another system collapse was recorded at 2.15pm, adding that restoration efforts were ongoing.

Total power generation in the country stood at 4,236.3 megawatts as of 6am on Wednesday, according to latest data from the Nigerian Electricity System Operator.

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