ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA) – The electoral commission, INEC, deliberately withheld the real-time upload of presidential election results from polling units, information Minister Lai Mohammed said, according to a report by the government-owned News Agency of Nigeria.
Mr. Mohammed said INEC’s decision to withhold the upload was because of a suspected cyberattack.
“INEC, suspecting cyberattack, withheld the uploading of the results in order to preserve the integrity of the data,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed’s claim is, however, different from what INEC told Nigerians a day after the 25 February election.
Mr. Mohammed gave the government’s position in Washington DC, United States, during his official engagements with some international media organizations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister is in Washington to engage with international media organizations and think tanks on the just-concluded 2023 polls.
It also reports that the minister has so far engaged respectively with the “Washington Post”, Voice of America, Associated Press and Foreign Policy Magazine.
INEC had come under fire over its inability to upload results immediately on its Result Viewing portal during the presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25 February.
Mr. Mohammed said the controversy was generated because of the inability of INEC to upload the results of the presidential election in real-time.
He said the controversy was unnecessary though it had been the fulcrum of the argument of the critics of the election.
He, however, said the conclusion by the opposition was based on ignorance of the role and functions of IREV.
He said IREV, a platform whereby election results at the polling level are uploaded, was not a tool for the collation of election results or to transmit results electronically.
Mr. Mohammed explained that under Nigerian laws, the management of election results is manual and the court has ruled that INEC has the exclusive right to determine the mode of election, its collation and transmission.
“What happened on the 25th of February was that INEC observed that the results of the presidential election were not being viewed.
“INEC, suspecting cyberattack, withheld the uploading of the results in order to preserve the integrity of the data.
“It immediately proceeded to float an alternative platform while asking its technicians to investigate what happened to its original portal,” the Minister said.
Mr. Mohammed explained further that it took up till 9 p.m. for the alternative portal to start working.
He said as soon as the original portal started working, the results were viewed from the two platforms.
No fewer than four out of the 18 political parties in Nigeria are currently challenging the results of the presidential election, alleging failure of INEC to upload them on its portal, IREV, and other irregularities.
INEC had on 1 March declared Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election.
Among the candidates challenging the results are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. They have since filed their petitions at the Presidential Election Tribunal.
Speaking further on the upload of election results, the minister said: “It is unfortunate that this is what the opposition are relying on to say the elections were rigged.
“So far, none of the political parties has come out to say that what is on Form EC8A is different from what was uploaded on IREV.”
Mr. Mohammed said the allegations of fraud being bandied by the opposition and naysayers did not add up.
Speaking on delay in delivering election materials to certain areas, the minister said it was difficult in a country as diverse and complex as Nigeria for election materials to arrive at the same time everywhere.
He said with 176,846 polling units scattered all over the country with different topography, it would be difficult to deliver the materials simultaneously.
“In some areas, you need to use donkeys, human portals, boats to access some of these difficult areas.
“We also know the challenge of an unanticipated cash crunch that slowed down logistic movements.
“The redesigning of the naira did not help matters because some of the people who transported the materials insisted on cash payment which was not available,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed said the police report identified pockets of violence scattered all over the country but they were not substantial enough to discredit the polls.
Quoting the police report, the minister said there were 489 cases of electoral infractions during the election and 781 electoral offenders that would be charged in court.
In his analysis of the report, the minister said it was a ratio of one infraction in over 300 polling units which was not sufficient to void the elections.
Mr. Mohammed said President Muhammadu Buhari has delivered on his pledge to leave behind a legacy of free, fair and credible elections in the conduct of 2023 polls.
He said in fulfilment of the president’s pledge to restore sanity to the electoral process, he resolved that he would not confer a special advantage on any political party, including the APC, his own party, during the election.
He said during the past elections, the president ensured that nobody used the security agencies to rig the election in his favour but created a level-playing ground for the elections to take place.
“A proof of this resolution is that the president’s party lost the presidential election in Katsina, his home state.
“Equally, the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, lost in his state, Lagos, while the Chairman of the Party, Abdullahi Adamu, lost in Nasarawa State to the Labour Party.
“The Director-General of the Campaign Organisation of our party also lost to PDP in Plateau state.
“Nothing gives this election more credence than those facts because there was no rigging in states where our bigwigs come from,” he said.
The Minister added that APC lost in the four States with the highest number of votes in the elections – Katsina, Kano, Kaduna and Lagos even when they were the ruling party’s controlled States.