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E- Transmission of result: Mobile networks can adequately cover 93% of polling units, reveals INEC, NCC joint committee

…Committee budgeted N396m on SIM cards, allocated polling units to Mobile Network Operators
– Yakubu

… We have full capacity for e- transmission of results, INEC insists

..Says Commission does not require NASS, NCC permission for e- transmission of results

By Ezeocha Nzeh

As the National Assembly puts in place, its harmonization committee on the final document on raging debate on electronics transmission of results in the amended Electoral Bill, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that the commission’s joint committee with the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) had earlier deliberated and agreed that the country has the full capacity to transmit election results electronically.

This is even as INEC has reiterated its readiness to embark on electronic transmission of election results, while calling on the authorities to remove all the legal impediments that have prevented the Commission from given its desired best in the electoral process, through the deployment of technology.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this in his 25-page “Position Paper on e – transmission of results, which was released at the weekend in Abuja, insisted that Nigeria has adequate Information Communication Technology (ICT), infrastructure for e-transmission.

Professor Yakubu disclosed through his paper that even before the debate at the National Assembly, on the proposed plans by the Commission to deploy technology in the transmission of results, the Commission had earlier discussed and agreed with the NCC on the use of technology to ensure transparency in the country’s election

The INEC chairman stated that the joint committee of INEC and NCC had earlier agreed a budget of Three Hundred and Ninety Five Million, One Hundred and Twenty Three Thousand naira (395, 123, 000) for the purchase of SIM cards for the 2023 elections, adding that the committee had already allocated Polling Units to all the operational Mobile Network Operator, between 2018 and 2019

“The Joint Committee (of INEC and NCC) also found that mobile networks adequately covered 93% of INEC Polling Units with the capacity to cover the outstanding 7%. The Committee went on to allocate Polling Units to the four major mobile network operators – Airtel, Glo, 9Mobile and MTN – for the purpose of transmitting election results.

“A total cost implication of Three Hundred and Ninety-Five Million, One hundred and Twenty-Three Thousand Naira (N395,123,000) was worked out for the services covering the cost of SIM, system configuration and integration, system support and data bundle with one-year validity.

“In addition, the Joint Committee made other technical recommendations, including the allocation of one terabyte (1TB) of data bucket per 10,000 SIMs per annum by the network operators and configuration of one Access Point Name (APN) and Virtual Private Network (VPN) “by all operators towards INEC platform to enhance security”. Such detailed work and recommendations involving the major MNOs and the NCC as the regulator of telecommunications in Nigeria, profoundly convinced INEC that electronic transmission of election results was possible for the 2019 General Election.”

Professor Yakubu noted that the Commission expected to receive a clear legal mandate for electronic transmission of election results with the Electoral Act amendment that was ongoing at the time in order to commence implementation. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

“Based on the foregoing, INEC is convinced that the nation has the infrastructure to implement the electronic transmission of election results. The MNOs have the capacity to do so and network coverage across the country is adequate and secure. This position is substantiated by the 2018 position of the people who should know namely, the MNOs, who informed the Joint Committee that they had provided such services to other customers, including the NCC which regulates telecommunications in Nigeria.

“This is particularly so because the Joint Technical Committee submitted its report three years ago. With the massive developments that constantly take place in the telephony and data transmission sector, the capacity would have further improved since then. In other words, the capacity is even more reliable today than it was three years ago when the MNOs and the NCC certified that electronic transmission of election results was possible. The contrary positions are probably built on some misconceptions which must be addressed”.

On the readiness of the Commission to transmit election results electronically, Professor Yakubu said, “The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, believes that it has developed adequate structures and processes to successfully transmit election results electronically. Electronic transmission of results will improve the quality of election result management and that our engagement with stakeholders shows that the Nigerian public supports it.

:”The technology and national infrastructure to support this are adequate. Consequently, if the choice was up to INEC, the Commission prefers to transmit election results electronically once the necessary legal framework is provided. This Position Paper will, among other things, try to elaborate on the reasons why the transmission of election results electronically is both desirable and doable”, the commission declared.

INEC however added that it does not need any attestation from the Nigerian Communication Commission NCC or approval of the National Assembly to implement electronic transmission of election results as that would amount to a breach of the Constitution, adding that recent debates regarding e-transmission have not bothered to look at the desirability or otherwise of using the innovation for elections in Nigeria.

He said; “Two guiding principles underlying the Commission’s application of technology are timeliness and relevance. These principles underscore the Commission’s belief that the time has come for Nigerian elections to transcend the cumbersome, tardy and vulnerable manual transmission and collation of election results to electronic transmission.

“Recently, in the course of the National Assembly seeking to amend or repeal and re-enact the Electoral Act 2010, a national debate has arisen over the question of electronic transmission of election results. The controversy has revolved around the readiness of INEC and the capacity of national infrastructure for transmitting election results electronically. It is worthy of note that none of the sides in this controversy appears to substantially question the desirability of electronic transmission of election results. It seems that only the preparedness of INEC and the capacity of national infrastructure are questioned.

“Since INEC’s readiness has become a cardinal issue in these debates, the Commission has decided to articulate and make public its position and thinking on this question, particularly for two reasons. First, many Nigerians have called on the Commission to make its position public. Second, we hope that by doing so, some of the partisan fervour that has tainted the discussions may recede and make common grounds and consensus possible in order to chart a more progressive way forward.

“This Position Paper is borne out of this thinking. Among other things, it distils the Commission’s position and thinking on the question of electronic transmission of election results in an easily readable form. The positions canvassed in this paper are informed by a decade of the Commission’s technical field experience, piloting and engagement with critical stakeholders, particularly the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on electronic transmission of election results.

“Surely, a decade is not a short time for the Commission to determine whether it is ready. Our position is not meant to support or undermine any side in the ongoing debates. Our understanding is that as a responsible corporate citizen, particularly one whose constitutional responsibilities are at stake, INEC should lend its voice to such a momentous issue of public concern. As such, INEC’s intervention in these debates, particularly through this Position Paper, should not be misconstrued as denuding the powers of any other agency or authority to perform its functions or to hold views on the issues in question that are contrary to those of the Commission

“The Commission has been able to successfully transfer images of polling unit level results to IReV from Oworonsoki in Kosofe LGA of Lagos State, Ariaria Market in Aba North LGA of Abia State to far-flung locations such as Dugge in Rijau LGA of Niger State, Mahin in Ilaje LGA of Ondo State, Kwalkwalawa in Bakura LGA of Zamfara State, Dumadumin Toka in Kafin Hausa LGA of Jigawa State, Foropa in Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State, Iguobazuwa in Ovia South-West LGA of Edo State, Briyel in Bayo LGA of Borno State, Bundot in Dass LGA of Bauchi State and Okwelle in Onuimo LGA of Imo State. Since August 2020, the Commission has conducted elections and transmitted election results from 20 States and the FCT, covering 27 constituencies spread across 84 LGAs, 925 Wards and 14,296 polling units involving 9,884,910 registered voters,” he noted

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