Over the last three electoral cycles, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has consistently sought to apply technology to improve the credibility and safety of the electoral process in Nigeria. This has intensified in recent times with the threat to public safety posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has necessitated an inevitable quantum rise in remote, rather than direct and physical interactions in the electoral process. Technology has made this possible. Consequently, within the last two years, the Commission has applied several technological innovations to managing the electoral process. Some of these are the introduction of the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) portal, separate portals for nomination of candidates, accreditation of election observers, accreditation of the media for elections and for nomination of polling agents. In addition, the Commission recently introduced online pre-registration of voters as part of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, which has made it possible for well over two million Nigerians to commence and/or complete their registration without difficulties within a period of ten weeks.
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.
In that spirit, and on behalf of the Commission, I strongly commend this Position Paper No. 1 of 2021 to all stakeholders who are interested in knowing the Commission’s thinking and position on the electronic transmission of election results. We hope that through this Paper, we have contributed to dousing the heat and shedding more light on the question. If through this Paper, more common grounds and consensus are found, then its production would have been worthwhile.
Professor Mahmood Yakubu
13th September 2021