Plot To ‘Rig’ 2023 Elections Through Uploads From Polling Units Uncovered

A recent report has detailed possible means by which the 2023 elections could be compromised through some insertions by the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The report made public in the early hours of Monday shows that while the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and polling unit results will be uploaded to the INEC portal, voters will be denied access to the results until after the ward collation officers have mopped the votes from all the polling units.

It should be noted that this is a deviation from what was obtained in the recent polls in Osun state, where results of the governorship were uploaded to the portal real-time.

This many have opined will help electoral fidelity and transparency, noting that such should be replicated at the 2023 general elections.

However, according to the report seen by POLITICS NIGERIA, certain officials of the commission have alleged that a member of its lCT unit has been positioned not to allow polling units results to be viewed real-time.

BVAS Upload Controversy

Reliable sources in the lCT department of INEC have revealed that a powerful politician has successfully compromised key lCT staff members of INEC not to allow polling units results to be viewed by the public on the INEC result view portal.

A report by Sahara Reporters reveals that the BVAS (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System) and IReV (INEC result Viewing Portal), the two most important technology inputs to the election, backed by the new Electoral Act will be used but Nigerians will not be allowed to view the uploaded results of polling units until they are validated by collation officers and Registration Area Technical Support (RATECHS) that will be compromised to input fake data at ward collation centres.

Further more it was gathered that this was done at the  instance of an influential politician who is bent on making sure that the polling unit results uploaded to the IReV (results view porter) should not be open to the public to view them until a group of RATECHs, who are to assist ward collation officers validated the polling unit results.

These RATECHs/collation officers, many of whom may be sponsored as ad hoc staff by political actors, have been compromised, hence if they are empowered to validate already declared polling unit results at collation centres before the public can view the results, it amounts to a return to the old way of keeping everyone in the dark while those who have leverage over INEC will fix the results to predetermined outcomes.

On the reason for the sudden change, sources in INEC revealed that it has to do with a compromise at the top level and the explanation to be used as justification is a flimsy claim that just in case there is a mistake on Form EC8A at the polling units, it could be corrected at ward levels that are to be manned by politically vulnerable RATECHs.

According to these sources, that reason is a deception. The source further revealed why Nigerians should not buy into the deceit for the following reasons: firstly, the possibility of error at a polling unit during the counting of votes where there are party agents, voters and election observers is highly unlikely and could be easily noted and corrected before all stakeholders than at ward collation centres with limited and reduced numbers of people present where manipulations are more likely?”

Secondly, ward collation centre is where RATECHs who are lCT experts work, and influential political actors can easily recruit them or their supervising officers to aggregate all polling unit results that could be easily altered. Thirdly, if polling unit results are not allowed to be viewed after they are uploaded at polling units, compromised RATECHs and collation officers at ward level could input additional figures at ward level to upturn the outcome of polling units election results.

Meanwhile, questions have been asked as to why the results from all polling units, the number of accredited voters and scanned (EC8A) can’t be viewed by Nigerians. Similarly, there have been queries as to why ward collated results and scanned (EC8B) are not uploaded to the public results view porter for transparency of the entire result collation value chain.

Questionable Provisions

Also some suspicious provisions were inserted in the INEC 2022 Regulations & Guidelines to be used by presiding officers for the 2023 election. It is believed that these provisions will create room for the courts to determine the final outcome of the 2023 elections.

Such questionable provisions are Rule 19. E(lV) which says a voter should “mark” on the Ballot paper instead of using “thumbprint”. According to the source, marking a ballot paper instead of a thumbprint is a recipe for rigging. An individual recruited by political actors and given a ballot booklet can use a pen or pencil to mark as many ballot papers as possible.

Besides, if a pen or pencil rather than a thumbprint is allowed, can a forensic exercise be carried out to determine whether it was just an individual that marked a large number of ballots?

It is very unlikely to detect, unlike fingerprints that a forensic machine can examine on ballot papers and determine whether it was just an individual or a few individuals who put thumbprints on ballot papers.

The question is whether a thumbprint or any mark on the box of a party’s logo also represents the intention of a voter insofar as the mark is clearly on the party’s logo. Also, there is the additional provision of Rule 20, which provides for a voter that even failed to pass through the five methods of identification for accreditation to be ticked/marked on the same manual register with successful accredited voters.

For those who wonder why this additional leeway is provided by officials of INEC in the guidelines, it should be noted that it is a loophole created by influential politicians using their leverage in INEC to dilute the Electoral Act. This is a recipe to bypass BVAS and claim that it failed.

The more troubling fact also is that, if this is allowed, it will be used to claim votes not recorded or to impute over-voting into the actual votes, thereby creating room for rigging.

However, one of the pertinent and critical questions that INEC needs to publicly answer in light of this is: “Will Nigerians be allowed to view real-time uploaded polling units results and the accredited number of voters on Form EC8A on the portal on Election Day as provided by section 60 (4) and (5)?”

“Will INEC allow Nigerians to view scanned collated ward results on Form EC8B on the portal? Why should a voter who failed both biometric, facial, and other verification processes be marked on the hard copy of the Election Day register, thereby creating room for many unnecessary manipulations of the accredited voters’ figures?”