INEC: Wrong time to mess up with numbers

...As Commission fails experts' integrity test

Mobilised by protests against police brutality in 2020, Nigeria’s young were determined to ensure a credible election process in 2023 to birth the country they desire.

Youths constitute the highest number of registered voters in the country. More than a third of Nigeria’s 93.4 million registered voters are young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

“It (#EndSARS protests) underscored for young people the need for direct engagement with the political and electoral system to reform and get it to be responsive to their needs,” Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at Lagos-based geopolitical consultancy SBM Intelligence, told Qatar based Al-Jazeera in early February.

In Nigeria, government and its institutions hardly get anything right. When they do get it right, the push back from those who lost in the process is fierce and flammable.

With a rich history of rigged elections superintended by corrupt election managers, the country’s elections have consistently been widely disparaged as scandalous and not fit for purpose.

The February 2023 presidential elections did not deviate from Nigeria’s best practice of vote stealing, vote buying, suborning election officials, violence and technical deficiencies. These are the norms in Nigerian elections; our best practice in election administration.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under Mahmood Yakubu has since 2015 when he assumed office, been unable to creditably hold an election that has not been characterised by local and international observers as fraudulent and corrupt.

In November 2022, Mr. Yakubu, bragged that the introduction of BVAS and IReV, a technology to upload election results in real time, was to ensure a free, fair and credible election.

“As I have said repeatedly, the Commission’s allegiance is to Nigeria. Our loyalty is to Nigerians who want free, fair, credible and verifiable elections supported by technology, which guarantees transparent accreditation and upload of polling unit results for citizens to view in real-time on Election Day.

“It is for these reasons that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) were introduced. There is no going back on the deployment of BVAS and IReV for the 2023 General Election,” Mr Yakubu posited.

On election day, the BVAS and the IReV failed to work efficiently, if at all in most places. It was a woeful outing for an election manager that is always long on promises and short on results. The elections were marred by widespread accounts of voter irregularities, sporadic violence at polling stations, disorderly delays, and other logistical issues.

Nigeria’s main Labour union, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC berated INEC over its inability to “prevent the recurrence in this election of the ills of past elections,” adding that it speaks “volumes of its ill-preparedness for this election as can be demonstrated in the late arrivals of critical election materials to the Polling Units and the almost deliberate tampering of the BVAS in many Polling Units including the outright refusal of its operatives to upload results from the BVAS to the INEC Servers in total violation of the Rule of the election and INEC’s own election guidelines.”

The truth about the 25 February election, Jibrin Ibrahim, Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, posited, that “the leadership of INEC is guilty-as-charged for eroding the credibility of the election by proposing an integrity test for the elections – the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) and failing to deliver on it…The IReV component of the integrity test failed and therefore the credibility of the election was lost using the definition of the integrity test crafted by INEC itself. This failure for me is really catastrophic because it created the basis for loss of confidence of citizens in INEC and its processes.”

Leading not-for-profit group, Yiaga Africa voiced apprehension over the delay in uploading polling unit results for the presidential election on INEC’s Election Result Portal.

According to the civil society organisation, no result was uploaded after voting and counting ended in several polling units as of 7 pm on election day.

“Yiaga Africa is deeply concerned with the delay in uploading polling unit results for the Presidential election on the INEC Election Result Portal. As at 7pm on election day, no result was uploaded after voting & counting ended in several polling units,” the post read.

Read also: INEC reassures Nigerians of safety of information in BVAS

Nigeria’s tech savvy youths were determined to audit INEC’s capacity to efficiently run elections in 2023 and ensure that votes weren’t dishonestly allocated.

To do this, they built and deployed election apps, to track results real time, independent of INEC, helping to guarantee that results declared at Polling Units are fairly represented at the last collation point and to check where the gaps are coming from and demand for accountability.

The audit confirms that despite an elephantine N305 billion it received to spend on the elections, INEC is failing to deliver optimally again; Thus, wasting immense public funds.

A visit to the Google Play Store show varied election-related apps designed by young Nigerians intent on stopping the stealing of votes by politicians. It is not just on online stores though; most election-related apps aren’t on online stores.

They are convenient applications deployed by netizens to keep a watch on voting patterns, results and INEC.

The ‘Election Manager’ app developed by Govindex Leadership, Empowerment and Development Foundation sold on the Apple Store, allows voters to enter the uploaded IREV results using BVAS, allowing for comparison with the announced results.

Early this month, Govindex Leadership, Empowerment and Development Foundation dragged INEC to court over the alleged criminal activities of its staff during the last presidential and National Assembly elections.

The group argued that INEC failed to comply with Section 160 (I) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) and Sections 60(5) and 148 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The group is demanding the criminal prosecution of INEC officials that compromised the integrity of the presidential election.

For INEC, the actions of Nigeria’s young, politically aware and technologically savvy population mean that its dubious days of electoral unaccountability is over, as it is being held to account by technology deployed by Nigerians.

No doubt, the outcomes of the electronic surveillance of the February 25 presidential election by Nigeria’s young people would form a veritable part of the evidence of election fraud perpetrated by INEC and political parties in the courts.

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