The delay in uploading the results for Saturday’s presidential election on the portal created by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised worries about the integrity of the process, as Nigerians await the announcement of the winner.
Voters, political parties, and observers expressed concerns over the inability to view most of the results from polling units on the portal, hours after voting and counting ended.
As of 10pm on Saturday, results for the presidential election were yet to be uploaded on the INEC Result Viewing portal (IReV).
The IReV platform, which was introduced by the electoral body in 2020, enables citizens to view copies of election results as compiled and recorded at polling units upon the conclusion of voting. The amended Electoral Act, which was signed into law in February 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari, allows INEC to introduce some innovations to strengthen the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
Pat Utomi, a professor of political economy and chieftain of the Labour Party, described what he called “the upload failure epidemic” as sad.
Yiaga Africa, a civil society organisation, said on Sunday that the failure of the IReV system, intended to enhance transparency, undermined public confidence in the process and could potentially impugn the integrity of the elections.
“Yiaga Africa expressed concerns about the unexplained delay in uploading polling units’ results for the presidential election on the INEC Result Viewing portal,” said.
As of 9am on Sunday, INEC had uploaded only 25,503 results for the presidential election on the portal, the organisation said at a press briefing, where it disclosed its preliminary reports.
The INEC portal shows that results are expected from 176,848 polling units. As of 7:50pm on Sunday, 45,739 of the polling stations, less than 26 percent, had submitted their election results.
“The delay in uploading the results undermines public confidence in the result transmission process as it deviates from the guidelines for the elections and it fails to meet citizens’ expectations. Thus far, the 2023 presidential elections are once again a missed opportunity,” Hussaini Abdu, chair of Yiaga Africa, said.
The organisation said it would be able to expose it “if the official results are manipulated at any point in the process”.
Julius Abure, the national chairman of the Labour Party, had on Saturday evening raised the alarm over the failure to upload results. “Information reaching me has it that in Lagos, they have refused to upload the results for the presidential election; they have uploaded that of the Senate and House of Representatives but for the presidential, they have refused,” he said in a statement.
Governors trying to compromise results – Atiku
Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, on Sunday, asked Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, to instruct the collation officers to upload the results from the polling units to the INEC server immediately.
Atiku, in a statement by Paul Ibe, his media adviser, said some governors were trying to compromise the results at the local government collation level.
“It will be a disservice to Nigerians and a negation to democracy for anyone to subvert the will of the people as freely expressed in their votes of yesterday,” he said.
He called on Nigerians to be calm but vigilant to prevent “anti-democratic elements who are masquerading as progressives” from stealing their mandate.
INEC regrets setback, rules out sabotage
INEC has expressed regret over the delay in uploading election results, blaming the setback on technical hitches.
Festus Okoye, a national commissioner and chairman in charge of the Information and Voter Education Committee, assured Nigerians that results from the polling units, copies of which were issued to political parties, “are safe on both the BVAS and the IReV portal”.
“The commission is aware of challenges with the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV). Unlike in off-season elections where the portal was used, it has been relatively slow and unsteady. The commission regrets this setback, especially because of the importance of IReV in our results management process,” he said.
“The problem is totally due to technical hitches related to scaling up the IReV from a platform for managing off-season, State elections, to one for managing nationwide general elections. It is indeed not unusual for glitches to occur and be corrected in such situations.”
According to INEC, the challenges are not due to any intrusion or sabotage of its systems, and the IReV remains well-secured.
It said its technical team was working assiduously to solve all the outstanding problems, adding that users of the IReV would have noticed improvements since Saturday night.
The commission said the results from the polling units “cannot be tampered with and any discrepancy between them and the physical results used in collation will be thoroughly investigated and remediated, in line with Section 65 of the Electoral Act 2022”.
At 7:31pm on Sunday, INEC announced on Twitter that the first official presidential result had been received from Ekiti State.
“Ekiti State moments ago became the first to officially submit the presidential election result to the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the National Collation Centre, Abuja. There was no objection from all party agents present,” it said.
Logistics challenges, disruptions mar polls
The presidential and National Assembly elections were marred by the late arrival of INEC officials and disruptions caused by political thugs, who snatched ballot boxes and made away with ballot papers in some parts of the country.
“There were significant logistics challenges, which delayed the opening of polls across the country. Once again, INEC has fallen short of expectations,” Yiaga Africa said.
The organisation said it deployed 3,836 observers throughout the country to enable it to independently assess the quality of the process and verify the accuracy of the official presidential election results announced by INEC.
It said elections did not hold in many polling units due to INEC’s inability to deploy its officials and election materials, insecurity, disruption, or malfunctioning BVAS, adding that elections were not conducted in 18 sample polling stations.
“Logistical shortfalls by INEC produced confusion and unacceptable delays in polling unit opening, most notably South East and South South geopolitical zones,” Abdu, Yiaga Africa’s chair, said.
He said the currency crisis in the country created unnecessary challenges for voters, political parties, and civil society to engage in the electoral process as well as for INEC to conduct the elections.
ActionAid Nigeria, an international civil society organisation, said its observers reported cases of late arrival of INEC staff and election materials in many polling units.
It said: “Our field observation reveals the following: Evidence of late arrival of INEC staff and election materials in many polling units, with some polling stations opening as late as 11.30am such as in Rivers State, Ward 17 under Obio/Akpor LGA and Okumagba II in Warri South, Olodi Primary School, Delta State at 2.30pm.
“INEC staff arrived at some polling units with sensitive materials without security personnel. Evidence of unsealed election materials with some already thumb-printed ballot papers (e.g. LEA primary school, Saburi, a suburb of DeiDei in FCT).”