There are strong indications that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) allocated N1.47 billion out of its N143.5 billion budget for the 2019 general elections to procure, replace and maintain its servers ahead of the 2019 general elections.
This is even as the European Union (EU), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) in their final report on the 2019 general elections scored the electoral umpire low, criticised the unconstitutional removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and also pointed out many illegularities that marred the polls prominent among is the manual transmission of results.
Available evidence showed that the electoral umpire requested for N2.27 billion to procure Computer servers in 25 of its offices from the Federal government but received N1.47 billion for servers.
According to a Premium Times report, breakdown of the budget of the Commission revealed that N143.5 billion was budgeted for Servers; N1.37 billion budgeted for nationwide replacement of servers in 25 states and National Data Centre; N99.7 million budgeted for an upgrade of the server version of OpenVR for compatibility with new Dell server and another N157.5 million budgeted for the renewal and maintenance of cloud infrastructure.
It is however not clear if the money were actually spent on Server Procurement or if the Servers were used for the collation of results during the 2019 elections.
The controversy surrounding the existence of an INEC server has continued to raise dust following the claims by the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, who in a 139-page petition submitted to the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal alleged that he scored a total of 18,356,732 votes to defeat incumbent President Muhamadu Buhari who according to him, scored 16,741,430 votes from the data he claimed were extracted from INEC Server.
But the electoral commission had declared Buhari winner of the election while Atiku has rejected the decision, saying his victory was upturned by INEC.
The electoral commission declared Buhari winner of the election with over 3million votes based on figures generated from manual computation of results gathered from the collation centres across the federation.
The electoral umpire in a counter affidavit, denied the existence of any server, insisting that such server existed only in the imagination of the petitioner.
Taking a step further, the All Progressives Congress (APC) through it’s Director of Strategic Communication, Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) Festus Keyamo (SAN) petitioned the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and the Inspector General of Police, alleging that Atiku hacked into INEC Server and fraudulently obtained the figures he is laying claims to.
But recent budgetary disclosures has raised fresh concerns over the commission’s recent claims that it had no server that was used for the last elections.
Hence it has become an imperative that establishing the existence of an INEC server and its role in the just concluded general elections is so critical in the presidential election dispute.
Nevertheless Atiku and PDP has continued to lay claim to victory at the Presidential polls with as much 1.6 million votes contrary to the figures published by INEC.
The party continues to maintain that it extracted the figures from INEC’s database. In response the electoral umpire has continuously denied operating a server for the election, saying such activities were not permitted by the electoral law.
In their affidavit before the Tribunal, INEC accused the PDP of circulating fake results just as the APC alleged criminal interception of a public institution’s communication by the PDP.
To establish his claims that an INEC server truly existed and were actually used for data collation during the polls, Atiku has indicated his intention to bring 12 Presiding Officers (POs) who were INEC Ad hoc staff and actually transmitted results to the Server from their polling Units.
Furthermore, the National Coordinator of a civil society group, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Samson Itodo reported that its observers saw polling officers ‘attempting’ to transmit results electronically in 65 per cent (961 of 1489) of polling units observed on the presidential Election Day.
On the same note, a publication by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), a civil society group, showed INEC was allocated N2.27 billion for servers in the N143.5 billion approved for the commission.
Also Speaking on Channels Television, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, affirmed that the commission made provisions for a central collation server.
“…The fact is that I am aware that at the polling unit, the same result is there, the duplicate has been given to the party agents and transmitted to the central server. Without talking to me, both of you have the result” Igini said.
In his clarifications, Spokesperson for the Commission, Festus Okoye, who spoke with Premium Times, confirmed that budget for servers were made in anticipation that President Buhari would sign the amended Electoral Act to allow electronic transfer of voting results.
“The Commission prepared and assumed that the amendment to the Electoral Act may be signed into law”, Mr Okoye said.
According to Okoye, the commission at the appropriate time will explain to Nigerians how it expended the money it got for servers and the entire huge N143.5 billion budget it got for the polls.
Also speaking, Rotimi Oyekanmi, INEC’s spokesperson, said the commission stood by the position made by its lawyer in court on the matter.
“I cannot say anything outside what the lawyer said. What he said is the position of the commission,” Mr Oyekanmi said in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, INEC has received barrage of bashing from Nigerians over the confusion surrounding the budget, procurement, existence and use of servers during the election.
While some expressed shock and disappointment with the Commission, others demanded that INEC be held accountable for misappropriation of funds meant for servers, removal and prosecution of its Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu.
In his verified tweeter handle, Senator Shehu Sani, wrote “It’s interesting and wonderful to know that INEC has no server or rather ‘serverless’.”
“Dear National Assembly, did you dole out large sums just for INEC to misappropriate the funds meant servers?” asked John Danfulani @john_danfulani.
“INEC on this day denied that they didn’t have server during 2019 presidential election. My question is: Me that worked as a P. O during the election where did I transmit my Elections results? With this am seeing many people not making heaven at last,” One.acre @NekkaSmith said.
“The anyhowness in Nigeria is why INEC will stand in court &dare to say that they do not have servers. Why did INEC request the large sums to deploy IT infrustracture?”
Also in his reaction, The Chaityman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus demanded for the prosecution of INEC Chairman, accusing him of diversion of funds and mismanage of resources because of their claims that INEC had no server.