#FixPolitics expresses grave concern about the upload of results by INEC and declaration of a winner for the 2023 Presidential elections
#FixPolitics, a citizens-led, research-based movement, has expressed grave concern about the uploading of results and subsequent declaration of a winner of the 2023 Presidential elections in the early hours of Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
As contained in a statement by its Executive Director, Anthony Ubani, the haste and timing of these actions have led to widespread consternation raising germane questions as to the motives of both actions.
Nigerians will recall that in November 2022, in the consciousness of growing public concerns about the sincerity, transparency and commitment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to conducting free, fair and credible elections in which the votes of citizens will be respected as the ‘voice of the people;’ INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, spoke at a press conference where he gave Nigerians assurance and commitment that the Commission will upload polling results from the polling unit; and that citizens will have access to these results in real-time.
In his own words:“…the commission will upload polling unit results and citizens will have access to those results in real time as we upload the results. This innovation was introduced by the Commission. The Commission cannot turn around and undermine itself.
This technology has come to stay. We will upload polling unit results from the polling units. Citizens will have the right to view these results. After all, who are we serving? The citizens. How can we deprive citizens access to the results of the process conducted by them at the polling unit?
I want to assure you and reassure you that the 2023 general elections will be our best ever election and we are committed that votes cast by Nigerians will determine the outcome of the elections. Nothing more, nothing less.”
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It is this assurance and several others by the INEC Chairman that built confidence amongst Nigerians to register to collect their PVCs. It was also as a result of this confidence that voters went out enthusiastically to cast their votes on election day despite the significant challenges of access to cash and the high cost of transportation for those who had to travel.
The public even accepted the added burden of the closure of the tertiary institutions as part of the sacrifice in reciprocity to the assurances given by INEC of a vote that would mean something. Many returned from overseas to exercise their citizenship in the hopes that the process would be transparent, free and that their votes would count. Unfortunately, since the Presidential elections held on Saturday, February 25, 2023, the country has been saturated with reports, complaints and protests from citizens, candidates, political party officials, civil society organizations, the media, local and international observers and well-meaning Nigerians.
In spite of the diverse range of these voices, three specific complaints cut across most of them: INEC’s failure/and refusal to upload presidential election results, particularly in real-time, to the I-REV portal; the complete lack of transparency in INEC’s processes; and the failure to follow its own regulations and processes amongst other elections management infractions.
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With regards to the specific issue of electronic transmission of results, the combined effect of Sections 50, 52(2), and 63 of the Electoral Act 2022 shows clearly that INEC failed to obey its own law. Article 38: I, 2 and 3 of INEC’s guidelines is unambiguous:
Article 38 on Electronic Transmission of Results and Upload of Results to INEC’s Result Viewing Portal (IReV) states:
“On completion of all the Polling Unit voting and results procedures, the Presiding Officer shall:
(i) Electronically transmit or transfer the result of the Polling Unit direct to the collation system as prescribed by the Commission.
“(ii) Use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), as prescribed by the Commission.
“(iii) Take the BVAS and the original copy of each of the forms in tamper-evident envelope to the Registration Area/Ward Collation Officer, in the company of security agents. The Polling Agents may accompany the Presiding Officer to the RA/Ward Collation Centre.”
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In the face of INEC’s failure to upload polling unit results from the polling unit in real time and sundry other failings added to the evident bewilderment and disillusionment of citizens with the opaque process, it seemed logical and respectful of the citizens whom it claims to serve, for INEC to have taken immediate steps consistent with its law and the promise made to citizens by its Chairman, to address the issues, fears and concerns that have been raised by citizens since the elections held.
Instead, the world watched the INEC Chairman blithely dismiss and punt issues raised only to decide to attempt to rectify its egregious infractions and, thereafter, to declare a winner of the Presidential election.
We believe that INEC’s decision to declare the winner of the 2023 presidential election has raised severe doubts in the minds of Nigerian citizens and a global audience about the legitimacy of the process that produced the results announced by INEC. Elections are integral to the democratic process, and the validity and legitimacy of elections are rooted in principles of transparency, obedience to the rule of law and open compliance with due processes.
In the absence of these principles of good governance, elections become a mere tool contrived to reach a predetermined end, leaving the citizens as hapless passengers and on-lookers in the governance of a commonwealth that is their patrimony. The beneficiaries of such a poorly managed and questionable process will lack the legitimacy and full support of citizens to govern effectively.
We believe that INEC has erred in declaring a winner of the Presidential election at this time when significant matters of electoral infractions that are of concern to most Citizens are yet to be addressed. This election was primed to be one that will help initiate the process of healing the many wounds inflicted on Nigerians and uniting them in a common purpose to face the monumental challenges that lie ahead. By ignoring the legitimate complaints of Nigerians and choosing to declare a president-elect, it is our well-considered and reasoned opinion that INEC has abdicated its legal and moral responsibilities to citizens and de-legitimised any candidate it declares a winner.
Political leaders govern by the consent, support and confidence of their citizens. If that consent and support is lacking, governance becomes the first casualty. There is still time to get it right. INEC has the power to review its decisions. The clock is ticking as the law, in its prescient wisdom, recognises that INEC is not infallible and can still restore the confidence and faith of the citizens in its role as an impartial umpire. It provides a window of seven (7) days for INEC to review its position.
We, therefore, call on INEC to swiftly review the breaches and gaps that occurred, investigate all petitions, and comprehensively review the election results based on findings in the interest of the citizens and for the sake of progress, peace, good governance and development of Nigeria.
#FixPolitics is a citizens-led, research-based movement designed to structurally change and innovate politics in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.