•INEC tightens security for 2023 polls
•To deploy 1.4m ad hoc, staff
•To check vote buying
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has revealed how fraudulent people attempted to hack into the INEC Results Viewing iRev Portal the commission’s portal during the last Ekiti and Osun elections with a view to changing the polling units-level results but that they failed.
Speaking at a forum in Abuja, the INEC boss however assured that the commission had taken steps to strengthen its digital assets with a view to ensuring foolproof security of all its web-based resources. Although there were concerns that one of the political parties in the Osun election actually succeeded in hacking the portal, the results of which it intended to present at the tribunal, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has dismissed such claims.
“Our engineers reported several cyber attacks on the portal during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, some of them from as far as Asia. I am glad to note that all of them failed.
“However, while we are confident in the security solutions that we have deployed for IReV and all our web presence, we must remain vigilant and continue to strengthen our defences. We have tasked our engineers to do everything possible to fully protect the IReV and all our web resources,” Yakubu said at a forum in Abuja.
Speaking with Saturday Vanguard, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi also said the commission successfully dealt with the threats. He assured that INEC’s team of engineers would continue to anticipate such threats and consistently evolve security safeguards for its dog talk assets.
“All online resources, like websites or portals, are prone to attacks or hacking. It is a common phenomenon. What the INEC Chairman talked about was an attempt by some rouges to compromise the integrity of our INEC Result Viewing Portal. But the Commission successfully dealt with the threats,” said Oyekanmi.
On the Federal High Court judgement which ordered the commission to recognize Senator Godswill Akpabio as the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate for Akwa Ibom Northwest, Mr Oyekanmi said the commission had not yet received a copy of the order as of yesterday afternoon.
“We read the reports of the said court judgment in the media like everybody else. We are yet to receive the certified true copy of the court processes and as such, we cannot be reacting based on media reports.
“However, when we eventually receive it, we will carefully study it. If the position of the court is not in agreement with what we believe to be right and just, the Commission reserves the right to take further action. But that is a decision the Commission would have to take,” he stated.
INEC to deploy 1.4million ad hoc staff for 2023 polls
Meanwhile, INEC has disclosed that it would engage 1.4 million ad hoc staff for the conduct of the 2023 general polls. National Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure while fielding questions from the Nigerian Guild of Editors, yesterday, in Lagos.
Yakubu, who had earlier, at a retreat on the recent Ekiti and Osun Governorship polls, said the INEC would map out new measures to check vote buying, narrated the complexities of Nigeria’s elections.
He said: “For the 2023 General Elections, we will recruit and train staff with numbers several times more than the entire armed forces of Nigeria. We will engage at least a 1.4million Ad hoc staff and the staff are staff that would be operating in the polling units level, collation and returning officers. “1.4million is bigger than the Nigerian Armed Forces. That is what we are going to deploy twice for the February 25 national election and for the state elections which include the governorship and State Assembly.
“We are going to manage 21,520 positions in 2023-the President and Vice President, 28 governors, 28 Deputy Governors, 109 Senators, 360 members of the House of Representatives, 993 State Constituencies for which elections would be conducted. So it’s a huge undertaking. We have 18 political parties.
“There are 15 countries in West Africa, including Nigeria. Excluding Nigeria, the voter population in the other 14 countries as of last year was 73 million. The voter population in Nigeria as of 2019 was 84 million. So there are 11 million more voters than all the other 14 countries combined.
“Each time Nigeria goes to the polls, it is like the entire West Africa voting. This would give you an idea of the size of what we are facing. 1.9million registered voters registered for the last Osun governorship election. That was more than the total population of the Republic of Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde put together. By the time you talk about Lagos, you are talking about several countries combined. “It is the accumulation of these complexities that INEC must manage, and administer as we approach the 2023 General Election commencing on February 25”.
Asked why the Commission is not employing electronic voting in the forthcoming elections, Prof. Yakubu said the commission is getting closer to electronic voting in future elections.
“There has been improvement in the process. If you reflect back on 1999 and 2003, there were moments when winners were declared while voters were still in the voting queue It will never happen again.
“We are deliberately deploying technology to make it very difficult if not impossible. There are still challenges but you can see the gradual improvement. it is brick by brick you build a house, you don’t build a house overnight.
“ Our vision for the 2023 election is to conduct the best elections ever conducted in Nigeria that would be free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive and verifiable. People can sit down and see the result of their polling units Online,” he said.
Measures to check vote buying
Earlier Professor Yakubu said the Commission was mapping out measures to check vote buying in the 2023 general polls. Promising that the forthcoming polls would be better than the recent Ekiti and Osun governorship polls, he insisted that the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal will check vote buying in the nation.
He spoke in Lagos at the Commission’s Retreat on the lessons learned from recent Ekiti and Osun off-cycle governorship elections.
Asked what the commission was doing to curb vote-buying, he said: “Vote buying is a violation of the Electoral Act. It’s against the laws of this country. We will continue to do whatever we can through voter education. We will continue to work with anti-graft agencies like the EFCC and the ICPC to checkmate that. We will also work with the security agencies to discourage it.
“The truth is that the more we improve on the electoral process, the more the traditional rigging process is no longer in vogue. Once we protect the integrity of the process at the polling unit level, our election is as good as any credible election.
“The other thing we can do and which we have been doing is to change the configuration of our polling units so that it would make things difficult for vote buyers to see which party the citizens voted for in order to induce them.
“In previous elections, we banned the use of smartphones and photographic devices while in the cubicle. All these are measures to make sure we protect the process.
“Ultimately, it is our collective responsibility as citizens. Our elections are as good as the kind of cooperation the Commission receives to ensure that western this ugly trend.
“However, the ultimate safeguard against this kind of attitude is the establishment of an electoral offences tribunal. We have said so consistently. The Electoral Act has placed on the Commission a responsibility it hardly has the capacity to successfully implement. INEC is required to prosecute offenders it cannot arrest. INEC has no police.
“Secondly, we don’t have the capacity to successfully investigate such that we have evidence that would lead to successful prosecution. I have said severally, some of the violators may actually be INEC officials. It is difficult for us to prosecute ourselves.
“So, establish the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal to which all violators of electoral laws would be subjected whether they are people at the polling units or INEC officials.
“But very importantly, the actual sponsors, the person who snatches the ballot box at the polling units, the person who falsifies results is unlikely to be a candidate in the election. So, as long as we don’t get the sponsors, the shenanigans of vote buying are going to continue and the best antidote for it is the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal.”