By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja Bureau
With majority of Nigerians still bitter over the decision of the Senate and House of Representatives to vote against electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria, a top official of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rubbished the claims that there are not enough network coverage across the country to warrant transmission of election results in 2023.
INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education, Elder Nick Dazang on Friday faulted the claim even as he has described the witness of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) official who appeared before the House of Representatives as blatant lie.
Speaking on African Independent Television (AIT) breakfast programme ‘Kakaaki’ , Dazang revealed that the Commission was traumatised that a sister Commission (NCC) which has been in the know since 2018 that INEC has the capacity and capability to transmit results electronically should come back in 2021 to attest that electronic transmission of election results is no longer possible in Nigeria.
According to him: “In January 2018, INEC approached NCC that it wants a technological- driven Commission and both have been working closely to deliver a free, fair and credible elections in our country for the benefit of our citizens. They are also aware that two network providers- MTN and Airtel have assisted JAMB conduct their examinations across Nigeria. So INEC is still wondering why NCC has suddenly made a U-turn that there is not enough network coverage in every part of Nigeria”.
The INEC Director of Publicity and Voter Education however said NCC is on its own as INEC has gone beyond rhetorics to try the new innovations designed to clean up Nigeria’s tainted electoral processes and they have been working perfectly well in the off season governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states as well as states and National Assembly Bye-elections across Nigeria.
“I am convinced that if INEC was given the chance to appear before the National Assembly alongside NCC, the Commission would have told the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members that all the network providers in Nigeria have assured INEC that network coverage is 100% across the country”, Dazang insisted.
On the fear of hacking of INEC Official Websites, the top Director allayed the fears of the public, saying “there is no website that is not prone to attack by hackers even in the most advanced nations but Nigerians should be rest assured that INEC has what it takes to fight off hackers and the Commission is well prepared to safeguard its websites against hackers”.
Meanwhile, the INEC Spokesman has urged the two chambers of the National Assembly to be patriotic enough to reverse their earlier decisions to vote against electronic transmission of elections results in Nigeria, adding that they should consider the image of the country in the comity of civilized democratic nations.
Said he: “As a patriotic Nigerian who wish his country well, I am using this medium to plead to the Conference Committee of NASS to look at the bigger picture, and to consider the future of our nation to approve the electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill”.
“I also want NASS members to think like “Statesmen”, they should think about the future not about the next election. Let us always look at the bigger picture. It pains INEC that beneficiaries of transparent elections in the forefront of working to weaken the Commission by asking INEC to share its powers with other agencies or take permission from another agency before performing its statutory functions guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria”.
But Dazang argued that the Constitution has given INEC the powers which cannot be shared with any agency of government, pointing out that the new directive of Senate on e-transmission is akin to striping INEC of its powers.
Said he: “How can you do electronic voting but leave out the component of electronic transmission of elections results. In fact, transmission of results is the anti-climax of any credible elections and you want to leave our on flimsy excuses of network coverage. It’s sad.
“You cannot send INEC to buy salt from the market and then you invite the rain.
“I want to leave a legacy in INEC and many INEC staff, from top to the least person want to leave legacy of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria before we retire from the Commission. We therefore urge NASS members to reverse their earlier decisions to vote against electronic transmission of elections results in Nigeria. Nigeria is ripe for It and INEC is ready and capable to do it”.