In the thick of controversy over the electronic transmission of results, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come to state categorically that it has the capacity and requisite technology to transmit election results electronically, even from the remotest parts of the country. INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye in a television interview on Saturday, 17th July, stated that INEC has the capacity and will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process. Okoye further emphasized that, “Our powers are given by the Constitution and the law and we will continue to remain within the ambit and confines of the power granted to the commission by the Constitution and the law.”
This contrasts with the submissions of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), when it appeared before the House of representatives on Friday, 16th July. The House of Representatives in the course of considering the Electoral bill, invited INEC and the NCC to speak on the practicability of electronic transmission of election results. However, only representatives of the NCC were admitted to give testimony at the House plenary. According to the NCC, Nigeria has only 49% coverage of 3G network required for electronic transmission of results and as such, it was not practicable
A joint technical committee of INEC and NCC was constituted in 2018, ahead of the 2019 general elections, with the aim to determine and facilitate cellular network coverage of INEC’s 120,000 polling units for the conduct of the elections. It was in furtherance to this purpose that NCC presented a cellular network coverage map of Nigeria, and all telecommunications operators involved in the process concluded that INEC’s proposed electronic transmission of results is practicable. The committee went on to resolve among others, that the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards to be used in INEC’s card readers for the election should be customised to have unique security features and functionalities.
INEC has conducted several elections in which it adopted the Z-pad technology and its Results Viewing portal for the upload and display of polling unit election results, respectively. The technology was introduced in 2020 and first deployed in a bye-election in Nasarawa State in August 2020. Subsequently, it was used in the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states in September and October 2020, respectively. Since then, it has also been used in six senatorial bye-elections in Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo, Lagos and Plateau States; three House of Representatives bye-elections in Niger, Abia and Jigawa States; 14 House of Assembly bye-elections in 13 States, and one Area Councillorship election in the Federal Capital Territory.
Indeed, INEC has stated clearly its ability to transmit election results from more than 92% of the country’s polling unit locations. According to INEC, the remaining 8% where there is presently limited coverage, can be easily addressed by paying telecom companies to deploy mobile base stations, retrievable after elections.