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Server Controversy: INEC staff indict management

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Several officials who said they were deployed as electoral officers by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 presidential election said they transmitted results electronically to a ‘central server’ through smart card readers.

This they said was done in compliance with the directive given by the commission during a three-day training before the polls.

The 20 officials deployed to various states, who mostly worked as presiding officers, said they were told that there was a “central server in Abuja” where results are collated electronically.

It is not immediately clear on which “central Server” the officials admitted to transmitting results but this has added a new twist to the ongoing confusion trailing INEC’s consistent denial that it used no server for the election.

A manual issued to the electoral officials by INEC for the 2019 election revealed that the “Communicate” icon on the Smart Card Reader should be used to transmit the accreditation data to the central server.

Another handbook for election officials in 2018 was however more précise on how presiding officers should use the card readers for electronic collation and transmission of results.

It said it became necessary to apply technology to transmit data and results from the polling units due to irregularities that take place after the voting process.

“After successfully filling the EC8A result sheet and announcing the result, the presiding officer shall tap the e-collation application on the home screen”, a part of the book read.

Backstory

The runner up in February’s presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the election tribunal.

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Determining whether the commission operated a central computer database that received election results has become central to the dispute after Mr Abubakar said results obtained from the server proved he won the election with 1.6 million votes to defeat Mr Buhari.

But INEC has strongly denied the claim, saying it neither transmitted results electronically nor saved them on any server. It said such activities were not permitted by the electoral law yet. The commission also accused Mr Abubakar of circulating fake results.

CONTRADICTIONS

Following the controversy over the veracity of INEC’s position on not using a central database, PREMIUM TIMES randomly interviewed about twenty electoral officers who worked in various states during the election.

While most of them admitted to sending the results electronically using the internet enabled smart card readers as directed, the rest said they only sent the number of accredited voters and rejected votes, “to the central server”.

Some of the officials, who requested to speak anonymously for fear of victimisation, said they were instructed to turn in the card readers after sending the results.

“INEC asked us to paste the result sheet and also send them electronically through the card reader,” a serving corps member who worked as an ad-hoc staff at Ido Local Government of Oyo State said.

“The results, as we were told, were sent into a central server in Abuja. The results can’t be more than the accredited voters on the card reader. It will reject it… You can’t submit your card reader without posting the results.”

Gbenga Oladayo, an Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) in Ipetumodu area of Osun State, described INEC’s denial as ‘contrived’.

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“They told us there’s a server that automatically records the number of accredited voters, cancelled votes and rejected voters.”

The APO2 for polling unit 023 at Maryland, Kosofe Local government in Lagos corroborated this.

“We did that as we were told during the training. I was shocked when I also saw the news that INEC claims that there is no server.”

‘How we handled results’

An ad-hoc staffer for PU8, Ode Ajibade Ward, Ilorin East Local Government, Ode Ajibade in Kwara State explained how they handled the results as instructed.

“We were instructed, in line with the guidelines, to record the results on form EC8A and paste at the polling unit and also transmit the result via the electronic card readers through the e-collation option, and this was communicated to us during training. The revision was done by ‘RAC TECH’ guys too.

“The challenge we had was bad network. However, we ended up transmitting the results via the electronic card readers when we got to the collation centre. You must send the results before submitting the card readers.”

When asked where the results were transmitted to, he said he believe ”it’s to the central server”.

“Not only were the results sent. Figures regarding accredited voters were also transmitted. I did all these as the PO, and I also had an APO (VP).”

Another ad-hoc staffer for PU10, Ologbenla ward, Ifetedo Local Government, Osun State gave a similar account.

But the Presiding Officer (PO) at PU002, Ward 8, Agege Local Government of Lagos State disputed this.

He said ”they were not directed to do anything with the result”.

Hitches

Others who spoke said they experienced hitches in sending the results to the “central server” due to network challenges.

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Ayo Aderibigbe, the P.O for Kware Local government in Sokoto State said during the training, said, “We were told to press the ‘send’ button on the card reader after the voting and the counting has been done.”

“They told us it would automatically get to them. But on Election Day, it was not going through because of the poor network, and after trying for hours, we paid one of the INEC technical officers at the local government, Raphael. He promised to help us upload this to the server when it was less congested,” Mr Aderigbe, a corps member, said.

Another corps member, who was the P.O at PU 022 ward 2 of Jos South local government In Plateau State, had a similar experience.

“I could not sleep that night. The issues most people had was the network. The network was not responding.”

But Collins, a student of Obafemi Awolowo University on election duty at PU008 of Fajuyi hall, Ile-Ife in Osun State said the network was “okay”.

“At exactly 1:40 p.m. that day, we sent the necessary information that should be sent via the card reader. I was shocked by INEC’s denial.”

Conundrum of INEC laws

details of INEC’s budget for the 2019 elections, and the spending plan shows the electoral body collected N1.47 billion from the federal government for servers.

But a spokesperson for the commission, Festus Okoye, told this Newspaper that the budget for servers was made in anticipation that President Buhari would sign the amended Electoral Act to allow electronic transfer of voting results.

NEWS

Atiku Promises to Address Insecurity, Others Challenges From Day One, if Elected

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Johnson Eyiangho, Abuja

Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has promised to address the numerous challenges in the country including insecurity, disunity and economic deprivation from day one, if elected President in 2023.

Atiku urged the huge crowd at the PDP campaign rally in Osun State on Wednesday, to vote the party in the next year general elections, saying that doing so would  empower th state with more resources and authority to provide the infrastructure needed for development and industrialisation for the economic benefit of the people.

”I believe by returning PDP to power you will strengthen this authority by voting PDP in the next general elections because a Federal Government controlled by PDP and a state government controlled by PDP in Osun State is to the greater good of Osun people.

”Our only objective is to make sure that the current challenges of insecurity, disunity, economic deprivation, lack of jobs for our young men and women and the future of this country through restructuring can be achieved and this I promise you I am going to start doing them from day one,” he said.

 

Atiku thanked the people of the state for voting for the candidate of PDP, Ademola Adeleke, in the last governorship election in the state.

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”My brothers and sisters of Osun State I have came to thank you and I appeal to you to come out in greater numbers than you did in the last state election and vote for the PDP in the next general election.

’’This is the only way that you can secure your future and the future of your children. We promise you we will not fail you; we are not like APC because we have done it before. We have got the experience, we have got the people who have the capacity to bring about changes,” Atiku said.

His wife, Titi, who hails  from the state, appealed to the people, especially the youths not to sell their vote.

”I know there is hunger in the land and it is APC that brought all these predicaments to us but if Atiku is voted, he is going to change the state of this country not just Osun alone.

”The youths are the most unemployed in Nigeria, Atiku has promised women and youths 60 per cent in his cabinet and he is going to fulfill it. Atiku is a man of his words, he matches his words with action,” she said.

Titi added, ”Nigeriand we are more divided than we were before. Atiku wants to bring unity, to bring this country together. Atiku is going to bring back that lost glory. 

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”Atiku is going to unify us, he is a unifier. Atiku has come to rescue Nigeria. Atiku has come to restructure Nigeria. Atiku has come to give our children good education. 

”There will be no Boko Haram, there will be no kidnapping, there will be no abduction. 

”All of these are going to stop but it has to start with you people. If you give Atiku your votes come February 25, that is when it will be possible for Atiku to make you great.”

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Foreign News

Witnesses challenge Israel’s killing of Palestinian

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An eyewitness to the killing of a Palestinian by Israeli forces has told the BBC he believes the man was shot simply for punching a policeman.

Ammar Mefleh was killed at close range in the occupied West Bank last Friday.

He is the 10th Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops in the space of a week.

Video of the shooting drew a massive reaction online and sparked a diplomatic rebuke by Israel to a top UN official who said he was “horrified” at the killing.

Israeli officials praised the officer involved saying he responded after the Palestinian stabbed a policeman in the face, and his actions prevented a “mass terror attack”.

Palestinian leaders described it as an execution “in cold blood”.

Mr Mefleh, 22, was killed in the Palestinian town of Huwara, which lies on a main road frequently used by Israeli settlers and has been the scene of growing violence in recent months.

This year in the West Bank more than 150 Palestinians have been killed, nearly all by Israeli forces. The dead include unarmed civilians, militant gunmen and armed attackers.

Meanwhile a series of Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis, as well as militant gunfire at troops during arrest raids, have killed more than 30 people including civilians, police and soldiers. 

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The footage from Friday, shared extensively online, was rare in capturing in detail part of the event that led up to the shooting. The last 13 seconds are caught in a second video from another angle.

In the recording, the Israeli officer is seen holding Mr Mefleh in a headlock as the pair struggle. Two other Palestinians are in the melee at first, but then step back.

After Mr Mefleh struggles out of the headlock, he tries to grab the policeman’s rifle. As they wrestle over the weapon the officer takes a hand off it – first to try to hit the Palestinian, who strikes him back – then to reach for his pistol.

Mr Mefleh for a split second has hold of the rifle but almost instantly throws it down or lets go of it, recoiling as he sees the officer raise his pistol. The policeman shoots him instantly, four times.

Following his killing, a popular Israeli news website reported that the officer had “eliminated the terrorist”. The footage was repeatedly circulated on Palestinian social media with people appalled at the killing.

The UN’s envoy to the region, Tor Wennesland, tweeted that he was “horrified by today’s killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, during a scuffle with an Israeli soldier,” calling for those responsible to be held accountable.

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A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Emmanuel Nahshon, tweeted in response that Mr Wennesland’s reaction was a “total distortion of reality”.

“The incident is a terror attack, in which an Israeli policeman was stabbed in his face and the life of another officer was threatened and consequently he shot his assailant,” Mr Nahshon added.

“This is NOT a ‘scuffle’ – this is a terror attack”.

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Foreign News

Latvia Axes Exiled Russian Broadcaster TV Rain

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Russia’s last independent television channel, TV Rain, has been shut down in Latvia after less than five months on air.

The channel, which is known as Dozhd in Russian, has been accused of showing content that supports Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

TV Rain has called the allegations “unfair and absurd” in a post on social media.

It has been ordered to stop broadcasting on 8 December.

TV Rain says it will obey the order but will remain on YouTube, which is where most of its audience watches its content. However, it will no longer be able to broadcast on cable television inside Latvia, which has a large Russian speaking population.

The National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP), Latvia’s media regulator, said the decision to revoke the licence was taken “in connection with threats to national security and public order”.

Earlier this month, the regulator fined the channel €10,000 (£8,613; $10,488) for displaying a map in which occupied Crimea was shown as part of Russia’s territory.

It was also censured for calling the Russian army “our army” in a piece about how to provide recruits with supplies. One of the broadcaster’s hosts, Alexei Korostelyov, was fired as a result.

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The decision has been criticised by many opposition figures in Russia, who argue that TV Rain is an important source of independent information for Russian speakers about the war.

“There is Putin, who started the war. There is TV Rain, which tells the truth about Putin and about the war. Stripping TV Rain of its licence only helps Putin,” said Kira Yarmysh, press-secretary to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The charity Reporters Without Borders called the move a “serious blow to freedom of information”.

The channel, which has long been critical of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, was blocked in Russia in early March, just days after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Many employees then fled Russia, and later started work on rebuilding Dozhd abroad. It is one of several independent media outlets to have moved its operations out of Russia or suspended them since the invasion.

The State Security Service (VDD) has been investigating the incident and said it has repeatedly warned about the “various risks emanating from Russia’s so-called independent media relocating their activity to Latvia”.

The VDD said these risks include the possible connections of media representatives to Russian intelligence and security services, as well as the danger posed if Moscow seeks to target Latvia as part of measures to influence public opinion online and elsewhere.

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Commenting on its decision to revoke TV Rain’s broadcasting licence, NEPLP added that it “was convinced that the management of TV Rain did not understand the nature and gravity of each individual infringement, nor of any set of infringements”.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “some always think that there is a place better than home, that there is always more freedom than at home. This is one of the clearest examples that shows that these are the wrong illusions”.

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