The Server Controversy and Upcoming Elections In Bayelsa and Kogi States, By Moshood Isah
Although, this is subject to assent to the new electoral bill, analysts believe that the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa elections present other opportunities for the Commission to sincerely test run its server ahead of subsequent elections, pending when the electoral bill is signed into law.
Barely four months to the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States and with the controversy over the usage of a server or not hovering over the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the organisation may just remain in a fix on the possibility of using a server for the upcoming governorship elections. Although the court has taken a decision on the permission to request for the access of the server that had been initially declared non-existent, stakeholders have interpreted the judgement in different ways. This is despite election observation groups like YIAGA AFRICA having revealed that its observers saw INEC officials “attempting” to transmit elections results to a server and reports from the media saying that officials of the Commission confessed to having transmitted results onto a server. While some believe that the court decision further reaffirms the non-existence of a server, others think the court only decided that it’s too early to access the server at the preliminary stage of the litigation.
It is no brainer that the Commission transmitted results to a server using the smart card reader during the off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States in 2018. The only logical explanation for this was the expectation that the new electoral law would be signed into law and thus electronic transmission could be implemented in full force during the 2019 elections. This is apparently why the transmission of results using the smart card reader was also in the electoral guideline for the 2019 elections. Then conundrum here, however, is that the lack of assent to the electoral act amendement bill means information on the server remains unharnessed, as it has not been used to publicly authenticate the manual data of either the accreditation or results.
This is not in any way making second-guesses around the server controversy as the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has said he would address the server issue that trailed the 2019 general elections, after the Presidential Elections Tribunal. All the same, there is need to forecast the plans of the Commission with regard to the use of the server in the upcoming off-circle governorship elections.
On the other hand, for the fact that neither electronic voting nor electronic transmission has been backed by law, others may wonder the essence of financing and deploying a server for the Bayelsa and Kogi elections.
Argument abound that the idea of electronic voting or at least the electronic transmission of election results is to provide transparent evidence vis-à-vis results pasted at polling units and collation centres. Political analysts have said electronic voting and results transmission to the server is the solution to consistent electoral hitches. Although, this is subject to assent to the new electoral bill, analysts believe that the upcoming Kogi and Bayelsa elections present other opportunities for the Commission to sincerely test run its server ahead of subsequent elections, pending when the electoral act amendement bill is signed into law.
On the other hand, for the fact that neither electronic voting nor electronic transmission has been backed by law, others may wonder the essence of financing and deploying a server for the Bayelsa and Kogi elections. Similarly, considering the fact that data therein are not necessarily for public consumption and cannot be used to authenticate results from the manual collation, will the Commission still go on and deploy servers for results and data transmission for the upcoming governorship elections?
Without assent to the new electoral act amendement bill, one begins to wonder what impact electronic transmission has served during previous off-cycle elections, where INEC publicly admitted it test-run its server on a micro scale. Despite this, it is not out of place for the electoral commission to pilot its server in off-cycle elections, just as it has done in Ekiti and Osun but then for how long will it keep deploying a server that may not have impact on elections?
In a bid to overcome this electoral conundrum, it is pertinent for INEC, civil society organistions and political parties to push for assent to the new electoral act amendement bill, which will solve a lot of electoral issues in Nigeria. It is believed that electronic voting will eradicate rigging, multiple registrations and voting, while cases of political violence and the hijacking of ballot boxes will be easily checkmated. Adopting this process for Nigeria’s democracy will not only increase transparency but will also boost citizens’ confidence in the process, while further improving participation in the process.
Moshood Isah is the media officer of YIAGA AFRICA. He tweets @Moshoodpm