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Why we countered Atiku’s server claim in 2019 polls – INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Thursday stated that it has always had servers through which election results were transmitted.

The commission explained that it was, however, opposed the deployment of a server in the post 2019 presidential election litigation because the petitioners at tribunal had argued for the existence of a specific server 

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INEC made the clarification Thursday at a two-day capacity building workshop themed “Peace Journalism/Conflict Sensitive and Election Reporting” in Abuja.

The server allegation

Challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 presidential election won by Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), claimed data from INEC’s server showed he actually polled a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari, who had 16,741,430 votes.

Following the claim, former Vice President Abubakar rejected the result declared by INEC from the 36 states and the FCT  in which Buhari polled 15,191,847, while Atiku came second with 11,262,978 votes.

Speaking through their legal team led by Levy Uzoukwu, the duo of PDP and Abubakar asked the tribunal to compel INEC to grant them access to the server and smart card readers used in the conduct of the election.

But their application was denied with the tribunal saying it could not grant such until it ruled on whether or not INEC had a server.

The legal battle ran a full course up to the Supreme Court which aligned its ruling with that of the tribunal.

 INEC explains

And four years after, INEC threw more light on why it insisted there was no sever.

Speaking to journalists at the workshop, INEC’s Director of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Engineer Paul Mokore said the commission denied the existence of server in the 2019 Election Petition Tribunal because the lawyers that took the matter to the tribunal insisted INEC deployed a specific server.

“This issue of server has been coming up, and as far as INEC is concerned, we have been trying our best to throw light on the issue. Now in 2019, there was a lawyer, the people who took that case to the tribunal had insisted on specific, specific server. They mentioned the server type; they mentioned the IP of that server. They mentioned everything, everything concerning the server they took to the tribunal. 

“Now what INEC chairman could say at that point was that we don’t have such server because you went to the tribunal with a specific IP address of the server, the type of server, the name of server, everything about the server was taken to the tribunal and because the lawyer representing INEC at that time was also wise, he told the tribunal that INEC does not have such server. What we have always said is that we don’t have such server. 

“Even at that, in 2019, we did not do electronic transmission of results. If we could even say that ‘we didn’t have server then,’ in quote, can’t we have it now that we are going to do electronic transmission of results?

“We have always had servers but not that server that was taken to the tribunal. We don’t have such server. Such server is not in INEC, we don’t have it,” he stressed. 

Also speaking, Director Voter Education and Publicity Victor Aluko said INEC timetable and schedule of activities remained sacrosanct.

He called on Nigerians to trust in the ability of the commission to deliver free, fair and transparent polls next year.

NUJ charges media  

In his remarks, President Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Comrade Chris Isiguzo called on the media to shun fake news and resist being used as a mouthpiece for any political party or candidate.

He said: “Journalists must avoid hate journalism, and fake news as these evils can destroy a society. The advent of multi-media technology has changed the pattern and flow of communication, globally and since journalism is in the business and practice of communication, it has also been impacted upon tremendously.

“The NUJ is committed to improving the ethical standard of news reportage during elections. We are keen in ensuring that Nigerian journalists undertake their professional duties within the ambit of the Electoral Law and other regulations.” 

On the theme of workshop, Isiguzo said it was apt as “it is very necessary to take the issue of peace as a cardinal point and take into consideration the need to be careful so that areas that are already fragile do not explode or implode. 

“Peace is a basic requirement in a democracy. No democracy can flourish in the absence of peace. While we concede that it is inevitable to eliminate crises and conflicts from our society, journalists in Nigeria should work towards the advancement of the right of freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of the press, media independence, conflict transformation and peace building. These are prerequisites for open governance and development, which ultimately serve the public interest.

“In order to properly advance public interests, earn public trust and be watchdogs of the society, the pursuit of truth and public good must be the cornerstone of journalism practice in Nigeria. 

“This makes it obligatory for every journalist to maximally comply with ethical principles and professional standards. It also makes it obligatory for every journalist to be entitled to decent wages, protection from attacks or hazards and conducive working environment.”

The workshop was organised by NUJ in conjunction with INEC and members of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

Bauchi  

 In a related development, INEC and the NUJ Thursday trained journalists in the North-east sub region of the county on conflict-sensitive reporting ahead of the forthcoming 2023 general elections. 

Speaking at the training held at the NUJ Press Center, Bauchi,  INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Festus Okoye identified some of the roles of the media in the electoral process to  include availing the critical stakeholders with timely and relevant information pertaining to the electoral process, carrying out voter education and public enlightenment in the context of the electoral legal framework and the processes and procedures pertaining to the elections, among others.

Represented by Nasiru Zakari, Okoye said media must be aware that preparations for elections, the conduct of elections and the resolution of electoral disputes are in a class of their own and cannot be discussed and analysed from a generic point of view. 

He said: “In the context of this discussion, the role of the media in reference is to the political/electoral process and the commission recognises that the media is a critical stakeholder in the political process. That cannot but be so, for democracy thrives with effective information flow and it is axiomatic that true democracy cannot in truth and in fact exist without effective information flow.

“It is in the interest of the country for the media to always seek for official clarification of germane and serious national issues, especially when electoral matters are involved, instead of relying on the opinion of unnamed highly placed officials of the commission. 

“The media must hold a balance between all the contending parties and candidates. Section 95(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 is categorical that state apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate,” the commission said.

NNPP on court order

Meanwhile, the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) Thursday urged INEC   to comply with the court’s decisions ordering the commission to accept candidates submitted by the party to replace earlier candidates who had withdrawn from the contest provided that the party complied substantially with the provisions of the law.

The party also commended the judiciary for its timely intervention in the electoral process which, it said, had helped to consolidate, deepen and strengthen the nation’s frail democracy and hailed the judgment of the Federal High Court Abuja delivered by Justice Zainab Abubakar on Friday November 11, 2022.

NNPP National Publicity Secretary Dr. Agbo made the commendations in a statement Thursday in Abuja.

The statement said:  “The court stated that INEC has no power to impose a candidate on the plaintiff (NNPP) nor can it stop any political party from replacing its candidates who have withdrawn from the contest not later than 90 days to the election, emphasizing that the commission’s timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election is a subsidiary legislation pursuant to Section 148 of the Electoral Act 2022,  and cannot supersede the substantive legislation, the Electoral Act 2022.”

“Justice Zainab Abubakar held that any provision of the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election that is inconsistent with the Electoral Act 2022 is null, void and without effect whatsoever to the extent of that inconsistency.”

“The legal fireworks in which NNPP was represented by its National Legal Adviser, Barrister Robert Hon and INEC by Tanimu M. Inuwa (SAN), Alhassan Umar (SAN) Abdullaziz Sani (SAN), Bello (SAN) leading 16 more lawyers came to an end Friday November 11, 2022, paving way for our great party to replace all its candidates who withdrew from various elective positions after their names had been submitted to INEC. Some mischievously left the party to frustrate its chances of winning the seats they abandoned”

“They include Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, the party nominated to contest the Kano Central Senatorial District seat, a formidable NNPP’s stronghold in the State where its Presidential Candidate, His Excellency, Senator (Engineer) Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Ph.D (FNSE) came from and was a two term Governor, which he transformed to a modern State with impressive state of the art infrastructure and human development, an eloquent testimony of his progressive leadership, tenacity of purpose and political sagacity.

“Senator Shekarau’s political intrigue is well known, he joined our great party claiming to be a reformed democrat in search of a new Nigeria which only the NNPP can offer if voted into office in 2023. “He was welcomed and offered the strategic Kano Central Senatorial District ticket, which he abandoned and joined another party with the fallacious assumption that NNPP would no longer field a candidate to replace him. Shekarau betrayed the confidence the party reposed in him and his co-travelers in political gymnastics.

“They include the party’s Yobe State deputy governorship candidate, Potiskum State Constituency candidate also in Yobe State and Taraba South Senatorial District candidate. They will all be replaced in compliance with the order of the Federal High Court Abuja on Friday November 11, 2022”

“By the order of court, INEC will now replace Senator Ibrahim Shekarau with Rufai Sani Hanga as the NNPP candidate for Kano Central Senatorial District.This is democracy in action. INEC should comply immediately with this clear order of court and stop dissipating energy and resources in wide goose chase in flagrant violation of the Electoral Act 2022 which is in force for 2023 general election”

“This landmark judgment is sweet music in the ears of all lovers of democracy, due process and rule of law in Nigeria. It reinforces the party’s confidence in the Judiciary being the last hope of all aggrieved citizens. It further inspires our strong belief in a new Nigeria which only the New Nigeria People’s Party can usher in if voted into power in 2023.”