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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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ECOWAS Makes U-turn, Lifts Sanctions on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger Republic

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has resolved to lift some sanctions on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger Republic.

The resolution was taken at the extraordinary summit on the peace, political, and security situation in the ECOWAS sub-region in Abuja on Saturday.

While the regional bloc said the political and targeted sanctions on the Niger Republic remain, it lifted some financial and economic sanctions on Guinea and other sanctions on Mali.

Following the military coup in Niger Republic on July 26, 2023, which toppled President Mohamed Bazoum, ECOWAS imposed several sanctions on the country.

But reading the communique after the emergency summit of the West African bloc on Saturday, ECOWAS Commission President, Omar Alieu Touray, reeled out some of the sanctions the Authority resolved to lift.

They include the closure of land and air borders between all ECOWAS countries and Niger Republic; no flight zone to all commercial flights to and from the Niger Republic, suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS member states and Niger Republic and freezing of all service transactions including utility services.

Other sanctions on Niger lifted are the freezing of assets of Niger Republic in all ECOWAS Central banks; freezing of assets of Niger State and the state enterprises and parastatals in commercial banks; suspension of Niger Republic from all financial assistance and transactions with all financial institutions lifted and travel bans on the military officials and their families involved in the coup attempt.

Touray said that the decision by ECOWAS is based on humanitarian considerations especially “as we are in the month of Lent and as we prepare for the holy month of Ramadan”.

He noted that the authority also resolved to lift the sanctions regarding the recruitment of Malian citizens in statutory and professional positions within ECOWAS as well as lifting financial and economic sanctions on the Republic of Guinea.

The ECOWAS President added that he has been instructed by the Commission to invite Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Guinea to attend the technical and consultative meetings of ECOWAS as well as all security-related meetings.

ECOWAS directed all its institutions, member states, and other regional institutions to implement these decisions.

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Peter Obi Dismisses INEC’s Report on 2023 Election As ‘Medicine After Death’

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Presidential Candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of deceiving Nigerians with report of the poll released earlier on Friday.

In the 526-page report of the 2023 elections, formally released ahead of the first anniversary of the election, INEC explained why the IREV failed to upload the presidential results despite the seamless working of the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS).

The commission attributed the challenge to technical glitches, which was, however resolved and that this did not in any way affect the credibility of the elections.

Obi, who spoke to Daily Trust through Dr Yunusa Tanko, the Chief Spokesperson, Obi-Datti Campaign Committee, described the report as medicine after death.

“I think the INEC report is medicine after death. The truth about it is that if I didn’t mean that INEC actually deal with this issue as it happened during the election, possibly Nigerians will have believed and trusted this particular report.”

“But here we are, the report of the INEC which signifies that the IREV refused to function or been uploaded during the election is false. Considering the fact that there were three elections that happened on that day, the Federal House of Representatives, the Senate, and the result was uploaded and there was no issue.

“Why must there be issue as regard to the presidential election? So totally for us is deceit, disdain for the people and is trying to promote an indecency,” he said.

He lamented that unfortunately everyone knew when INEC gave a written document, citing that they would not agree with any result that is not posted on the IREV.

“It is documented and everybody saw it. But then this is the same INEC who went again to the Supreme Court citing that they had an authority to collate the result manually and it was stamped on authority on illegality by our judiciary.

“And you want to convince me that that particular issue of glitch was not done deliberately? The truth is that nobody was arrested. Somebody ought to have been arrested who has been saddled with that responsibility.

“And if he is saddled with the responsibility, he must be held responsible and account for why the glitches occur.

“And even if there was a glitch, it’s just like your network taking off. It shouldn’t take up to a whole day. A few seconds it is off, three seconds it is back. Why was the server not back or why is the glitch not resolved?

“So for me and many of us, this is totally unacceptable. The report is deceitful to the Nigerian people. Our electoral Act and electoral law must be revisited to give clarity as regard to the process of our election.

“We don’t want to give any lacuna to any of our election process and give room for the judiciary only to decide who wins election. Election should be done and dusted at the polling units,” he said.

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Akpabio Lied, No State Received N30bn from FIRS – Makinde

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Oyo State Governor and Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, declared that there was no truth in the claim by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, that states of the federation got an additional N30 billion each outside of their statutory revenue allocations, to address food insecurity in their states.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Suleiman Olarenwaju in Ibadan, the state capital, said the state has not received any N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service or the Federal Government, and that his administration has been and will always be open and transparent to the people of the state.

The Governor, who added that he has been doing everything to cushion the effects of the economic hardship on the people, warned that leaders should instill confidence and hope in the citizenry in this trying time rather than playing the blame game.

Makinde stated this in Iseyin where he commissioned the newly-renovated multi-billion naira Iseyin Central Mosque facilitated by a legal icon, Ahmed Raji, SAN, hailing the religious harmony in the state as being exemplary.

The Governor decried Akpabio’s reliance on unverified reports, clarifying that states couldn’t get funds from the FIRS, since all revenues go into the Federation Account and belong to the FG, states and local governments.

“The only fund that Oyo State got from the Federal Government outside of statutory allocation was N2 billion out of the N5 billion promised to all states in the wake of the removal of fuel subsidy, adding that the Federal Government had even been asking for the refund of the N2 billion,” he stated.

Makinde added that his government has been doing its best to mitigate the hardship on residents of the state, having been the first to announce and implement measures to cushion the effect of the hardship through the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery.

He said, “This is a very difficult period in our nation’s history because all of us are aware of what we are going through economically. But for us as an administration, I can say we are the first in Nigeria to announce and implement measures on the 9th of June 2023, to cushion the effect of this policy through SAFER.

“We have been doing our bit. And the reason I came here is for us to talk to ourselves and intensify prayers. So, this is one of the edifices through which we can reach God, though we have done our bit. We have health insurance for our own people, we give farm inputs to our farmers but, at this stage, we need to cry to God.

“For the workers, we have been paying a wage award; N25,000 for workers and N15,000 for pensioners, and we have paid for close to six months. Only last week, I announced an extension for another six months so that we can have the time to conclude the discussion on minimum wage. Well, we know there is much to be done and we will continue to do everything within our power to support our people through this hard time.”

Makinde cautioned that “this is not the time to play politics, as we have real issues that deserve real solutions. But yesterday, I saw the video and read in the news where the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, made a statement, though he said it was an unverified report, stating that the state governments received an additional N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, outside of our statutory allocation, in the last few months, to address food security.”

The Governor added, “Please, listen to me loud and clear. I can speak for Oyo State and can also speak for any of my colleagues. This is because, as the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I know when things are happening.

“If I want to play politics, I will keep quiet and let this slide, but I am not going to let this slide. FIRS cannot give money to any state. It is not possible. All revenues accruing to the country go into the federation account and it is distributed to all tiers of government.  The FG does not give states money. The money in the federation belongs to all of us; it does not only belong to the Federal Government.

“So, if the Senate President, who is the number three citizen in this country, could be quoting an unverified report, people are looking at us as leaders. This is the period that we are supposed to give confidence to our people. It is not the period to start playing politics or to start looking for scapegoats.”

“We need to engage with our people. If our policies are not working, we need to listen to the people and amend them. So, if the number three citizen had nothing but an unverified report, why did he need to say it? Does his statement give confidence to the people or solve the problem of hunger and anger in the land?” he queried.

“Let me say it clearly, as for Oyo State and for most of my colleagues, there is nothing like N30 billion being given to states for food security and I stand to be challenged.

“Yes, the Federal Government promised the states N5 billion and out of that, it only gave N2 billion and they are even asking that the N2 billion should be refunded right now.

“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to manage the fiscal situation in Nigeria and manage the inflationary trend we have in the country right now.

“We have been transparent about everything we are doing here and this is the time for us to stay together as a nation to solve the problems we are facing. It is not the time to engage in blame games and propaganda. Hunger and anger are real and, as leaders, we must address them.”

Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, appreciated Makinde for attending the event and for speaking passionately as expected of leaders, saying the state governor is on the right track.

Earlier, the facilitator of the Iseyin Central Mosque renovation project, Raji, appreciated the governor for his presence, urging citizens of the country to continue to pray for its leaders and to pray to God to lessen the burden of the people.

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