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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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FG Announces Resumption of International Flights

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The Federal Government on Thursday said the airports would be reopened to international flights in weeks and not in months.

When international flights eventually resume, passengers are expected to arrive the airport three hours before their flights.

The government said the prolonged ban on international travels was not punitive but mainly to keep Nigerians across the country safe from the spread of COVID-19.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed this in Abuja while answering questions at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

He said, “On the question about the reopening of the airports, I will like to use this medium to reiterate and to be consistent with what we’ve been saying. I want people to understand that this is not purely an aviation function.

“It also has to do with our health and is so huge that it made Mr President in his wisdom to set up the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. This is in the interest of the nation.”

The minister said operators in the civil aviation sector had wanted to open the airports a long time ago in order to return to business and halt the loss of revenue.

Sirika said the ban on international flights had warranted the mass sacking of workers in the aviation sector and non-payment of salaries by airlines.

He said, “So we really want to open. But we can’t open alone, for within the space where we operate we’ve got all kinds of people there in the airports.

“We’ve got immigration, police, Customs, civil defense, port health, etc, and so the PTF has set up a technical committee to come up with a date when everybody will be happy to start.”

The minister added, “So we will open as soon as all of us are happy to open. And I want to adopt what the coordinator has said; it will be in weeks rather than in months.”

Sirika urged Nigerians not to blame any government official for the ban on international flights. Rather the blame should be on COVID-19, he said.

“We feel your pain. We know that this closure of airports has separated families and friends, denied people access to hospitals abroad, schools, businesses, etc. We feel this pain,” he said.

He insisted that the prolonged ban on international flights was not on purpose but was to ensure that Nigerians remained safe and healthy.

The PTF National Coordinator said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and other agencies, as well as airlines, should commence the process for the resumption of international flights.

According to Aliyu, passengers would arrive three hours before flights when the country’s airspace finally reopens for international operations.

“We have modified the protocol for passenger arrivals at the airports. Domestic passengers arriving at the airports are advised to arrive one hour before their flights and three hours before international flights – when this restarts.”

He said there may be additional infrastructure for some of the airports.

“Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.

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Army, Police Arrest Protesters in Abuja

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Several #RevolutionNow protesters were arrested by the police and the Nigerian Army in the Abuja metropolis on Wednesday.

The protesters carrying placards and banners had set out as early as 8 am to demand good governance.

Some of the banners read, ‘Nigerians are sick and tired of poverty, corruption, injustice and untimely death’; ‘Say no to injustice’, ‘Yes to living wage for unemployed youths’.

The protesters, many of whom wore orange berets, converged on the Unity Fountain, Shehu Shagari Way, Maitama, and were about to begin their procession when policemen stormed the venue and dispersed them.

Soldiers and other security operatives also cordoned off adjoining streets including Aguiyi Ironsi Street to prevent the protesters from marching.

Human rights lawyer, Tope Akinyode, said he witnessed security agents beating protesters for no just cause.

Akinyode said, “They arrested about 29 of our people. Security officials made them to lie down and beat them. Even as a lawyer I was harassed. They pushed me around. This is very undemocratic.”

It was learnt that the protests are ongoing in other states, including Lagos.

The leader of the group, Omoyele Sowore, who is a former Presidential candidate, was detained last year for about three months while court orders for his release were ignored.

He was eventually released following pressure from the international community and human rights organisations.  Several protesters who were arraigned in court won their cases.

Photos and story: The Punch

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WAEC Sets Mathematics, English for Aug 17, 26 Respectively (See Full Timetable)

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The West African Examinations Council has released the examination date, time and duration for subjects to be taken in the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

According to a copy of the timetable obtained by our correspondent from WAEC Nigeria, candidates would sit for Mathematics on August 17 and write English Language papers on August 26.

It said Mathematics (Essay) holds between 9:30 a.m and 12:00 noon while Mathematics (Objective) holds from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. both on August 17.

The examination body said English Language (Essay) holds August 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. while English Language  (Objective) holds between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Biology practicals hold on August 31 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold August 25 from 09:30 a.m.

Chemistry practicals hold August 7 and 18 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold September 2 from 02:00 p.m.

Physics practicals hold August 8 and 20 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold August 28 from 09:30 a.m.

Economics (Essay and Objective) hold August 19 from 09:30 a.m. while Agricultural Science (Essay and Objective) hold same day from 02:00 p.m.

History (Essay and Objective) hold August 20 from 02:00 p.m.

Literature-In-English (Prose, Objective, Drama and Poetry) hold August 21 from 09:30 a.m.

Principles of Cost Accounting 2 (Essay and Objective) hold August 26 from 02:00 p.m.

Geography 2 (Essay and Objective) hold August 27 from 09:30 a.m.

French (Essay and Objective) hold August 29 from 09:30 a.m.

Further Mathematics (Essay and Objective) hold September 1 from 09:30 a.m.

Christian Religious Studies (Essay and Objective) and Islamic Studies (Essay and Objective) hold September 2 from 09:30 a.m.

Government (Essay and Objective) hold September 3 from 09:30 a.m.

Foods and Nutrition 2 (Essay and Objective) hold September 4 from 09:30 a.m.

Yoruba/Hausa/Igbo/others (Essay and Objective) hold September 8 from 09:30 a.m.

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