EXCLUSIVE: Jega speaks on INEC server controversy

Attahiru Jega

Former Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, has denied making a statement on the existence of a server during his time as head of the commission.

Mr Jega, in a circulated comment, was quoted as saying the INEC server existed and is ‘functional’, even in his own time.

The statement drew comments from Nigerians who questioned the current chairman of INEC for the commission’s claim it had no server for the 2019 general elections.

Mr Jega in 2010 replaced Maurice Iwu as substantive chairman of the commission and served until 2015.

He was succeeded by current chairman, Mahmood Yakubu after Amina Zakari served a short stint as Acting Chairman.

Unending controversy

Discussions about INEC server gained more attention in the past week after the commission told the ongoing Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal that it had no server where the results of the February 23 presidential election were uploaded.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election.

The petitioners claimed the results they obtained from the INEC server indicated that Mr Abubakar won the poll with over six million votes margin.

The revelation drew anger from Nigerians who lashed the electoral body for denying its promise to provide a server for transmission of results of the presidential election.

In the wake of these criticisms, PREMIUM TIMES published a 2017 comment by INEC’s Director of Information and Communication Technology, Chidi Nwafor, countering the current position of the commission.

“INEC has therefore decided to securely transmit results from all polling units to central database such that only viewing access is allowed at the wards and local government levels – which ultimately eliminates manual collation processes,” Mr Nwafor, said then.

Similarly, the ICIR also published a report on INEC’s budget for the 2019 election in which the commission earmarked N2.27 billion for procurement of server-related items.

Jega’s comment

While the back and forth was ongoing, some Nigerians on social media reproduced a comment allegedly credited to Mr Jega.

The professor of politics was quoted as saying that election results were transmitted electronically ‘during his time.’

Mr Jega served as INEC chairman for both 2011 and 2015 general elections.

“INEC server exist and it is functional. Let’s call a spade a spade. I was once INEC chairman and results were transmitted electronically during my time,” he was quoted as saying in one of the viral tweets.

The comments, with no source, was tweeted on the handle of Olushola Olufolabi @olushola_shola.

In an exclusive text message to PREMIUM TIMES through an associate, Mr Jega denied making such ‘reckless’ statement.

He noted that the commission under his watch did not, at any time, transmit results electronically.

“This is another lie mischievously attributed to me. I never said this. Besides, INEC during my time did not do electronic transmission of results. Under our current electoral laws, it is illegal to do so.

“I am at a loss as to why some reckless people go the extra mile to attribute things to me, which I have never said. I have never said this. It is a repugnant lie,” Mr Jega said in the message sent on Sunday.

What next for INEC?

However, despite Mr Jega’s denial, controversies about INEC server will continue to linger for a while.

In what could be regarded as the closest clarification offered, INEC on Monday said it only ‘experimented’ with the use of server during some staggered elections held in 2018.

INEC National Commissioner, Solomon Soyebi, said this while speaking during the Post Election Retreat organised by the Commission for the staff engaged for the last general elections in Osun State.

“We piloted the use of transmission of election results electronically in Sokoto, in Anambra, even in Osun. What happened was that we were trying to pilot to see the desirability of such technology in our electoral process.

“First, our budget came out very late, there was also issue (with) the Electoral Act. For these and some other reasons, the Commission did not adopt that option. 2019 elections were conducted according to law.

“We used the Constitution of the Federal Republic. We used the Electoral Act and our guidelines for 2019 elections. If you look at the three instruments carefully, the issue of server was not highlighted.

“Once in a while, you will see an experiment going on but we have to pilot it before we will deploy (such) wholesale for election. We did not use it because of circumstances beyond the control of the Commission,” Mr Soyebi was quoted as saying by Punch newspaper.

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