The Nation (Nigeria)
Feasibility of electronic transmission of election results
The push to amend the Electoral Act to allow for electronic or e-transmission of election results has divided the National Assembly and unwittingly heated the polity, LUCAS AJANAKU writes
ALL over the world, review of laws in reaction to the everchanging developments is norm but the attempt by the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to allow for the deployment of technology in transmitting election results has pitted lawmakers and members of the public against one another.
The adjustment of the section on e-transmission of results stipulates that INEC may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable was akin to a red rag to a bull. The words “may” and “practicable” became the bone of contention becoming a potential recipe for chaos and acceptability of polls outcomes.
In the report, Clause 52(2) states that voting at an election under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission, which may include electronic voting.
Clause 52(3) says: “The commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
The majority of Senators had voted for an amendment of Clause 52 proposed by the Deputy Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, that: “The Commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly."
INEC said it has the capacity for etransmission of results from remote areas of the country.
Its National Chairman and Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, said: “We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access.
“So, we have made our own position very clear, that we have the capacity and we have the will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process.”
E-transmission of election results is not new in the country.
Osaze-uzzi said INEC did e-transmission of election results in Edo and Ondo states, adding that it was seamless. He said INEC has been piloting increased deployment of technology in several by-elections across the country too.
He said he wasn't aversed to partnership and consultation with the NCC but vehemently opposed seeking approval either the telecoms sector regulator of the National Assembly.
According to him, in 2018, INEC worked with the NCC and discov
ered that only 8,000 out of 124,000 polling units that existed then weren't covered by telecoms services. Though there were blind spots here and there, the telcos, he said pledged readiness to deploy technology that could ease e-transmission of election results.
He said the 2018 data obtained from the telcos showed 92per cent coverage.
NCC’S Executive Commissioner, Technical Services Ubale Maska said only 50.3 per cent of the 119,0000 polling units in the country as of 2018 are covered by 2G and 3G networks.
Maska, who stood in for the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Dambatta, said election results could only be transmitted by the 3G network which he said covers only 50 per cent of polling units in the country.
Maska said the result of their 2018 analysis of polling units across the country revealed that 49.7 per cent were yet to have any form of network coverage.
Prof. Dambatta said the Commission is mindful that there is work to be done in areas that are understhe
erved, areas that are unserved, in fact, areas that lack economic viability which doesn't attract investment by mobile network operators (MNOS).
"So far we have succeeded in bringing them down from 217 clusters of access gaps to about half, we have about 114 at the moment. We have also succeeded through this effort in bringing telecoms services to more Nigerians that hitherto did not have access to telecoms services from the 40million Nigerians who hitherto did not have access to telecoms services, as a result of these clusters of access gaps. This huge number has gone down by about 15million. So we are down to a 25million."
Dearth of infrastructure
Currently, the number of base transceiver stations (BTS) deployment in the country has risen from 30,000 to 54,460.
This figure is still a far cry from the 80,000 BTS required for effective coverage of the country’s huge landmass.
The BTS consist of the second generation (2G), third generation (3G) and fourth-generation (4G) while Fibre Optic Transmission cables expanded from 47,000km to 54,725km in the last five years, resulting in improved broadband/telecoms service delivery in the country.
Prof. Danbatta said the effective regulatory regime put in place by the leadership of the Commission has resulted in increased deployment of infrastructure by telecoms operators, which in turn, helped to improve broadband penetration and other related service delivery in the telecoms industry.
“The BTS, fibre optic cables and other related infrastructure are central to the provision of improved service experience for Nigerians by their respective telecoms service providers,” he said.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the House was not against el-transmission of result, but rather interested in ensuring that the vote of every Nigerian counted.
He had said contrary to insinuations in some quarters that legislators did not want e-transmission of results, the lawmakers wanted a system that would make all votes count.
“From my research, electronic voting does not even take place in any European country that I know of. Not in Germany, not in England, not in Spain, not in France or any part. In fact, in Germany, they did a referendum on electronic voting and they voted against it,” he said.