- Commission will account how fund was spent – INEC Commissioner
There is rising disquiet over the controversial ‘missing’ N1.47 billion allocation for upgrading and maintenance of servers in the N143.5 billion budget the Eighth National Assembly approved, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the 2019 general elections in Nigeria. National Daily inquiry into the controversy that INEC reportedly denied at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that the commission does not have servers used during the elections, several stakeholders in the Nigerian project advocate immediate intervention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to deepen the anti-corruption war of President Buhari in unearthing the expenditure of the N1.47 billion allocation for servers in the 2019 elections budget.
National Daily gathered from the stakeholders that the Commission should get the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, to account for the N1.47 billion server budgetary allocation.
National Daily recalls that the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general elections, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, had rejected the result of the February 16 presidential election in which INEC declared was won by incumbent President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), claiming he defeated the incumbent president with 1.6 million votes; making specific reference to an unofficial result he got from the INEC server, which contradicts the official result declared by the commission.
National Daily further recalls that immediately Atiku made that revelation about the ‘authentic’ presidential election result derived from INEC server, the Official spokesperson and Director of Strategic Communications of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organization, Festus Keyamo SAN, wrote a strong petition to the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of Security Service (DSS), demanding the arrest of PDP leaders and Atiku for hacking INEC server; the same server INEC said does not exist.
INEC has been widely reported to have denied having servers, noting that it was not backed by law; accusing Atiku and the PDP of circulating fake result.
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While INEC, the ruling APC and some stakeholders may be right to argue that electronic transmission of result is illegal since President Buhari declined accent to the amended Electoral Act containing such law, several other stakeholders argue that developing servers is not illegal. The latter stakeholders contended that while electronic transmission of elections result is a process that the law making process was inconclusive, developing and operating servers may not be illegal since the law is silent on having servers to which budgetary allocations were made by the government. They insisted that server is not a process but a database facility that serves as library for references or record keeping. They argued further that server provides the appurtenance on which card readers functioned during the elections, adding that the card reader is connected to the record stored in the server. They declared, therefore, that illegalizing servers is tantamount to illegalizing card readers in the general elections.
Away from the debate on the server controversy in the open society, National Daily gathered from certain records and some other reports that the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC in August 2018 approved N143.5 billion budget requested by President Buhari for the electoral commission to conduct the 2019 general elections.
From the records, the breakdown of the budget allocation for servers was classified as follows:
N1.37 billion budgeted for nationwide replacement of servers for 25 states and National Data Centre.
N99.7 million budgeted for an upgrade of the server version of OpenVR for compatibility with new Dell server.
N157.5 million budgeted for the renewal and maintenance of cloud infrastructure.
It was observed that while the commission requested N2.27 billion, the federal government released N1.47 billion for servers.
The question Nigerians are asking is, if INEC has no server, where is the money?
National Daily in a survey found that stakeholders in the Nigerian project are demanding that INEC should be made to account for funds appropriated for servers, since the commission has no servers.
Senator Shehu Sani, Kaduna State, was cited to have tweeted: “It’s interesting and wonderful to know that INEC has no server or rather ‘serverless’.”
Another twitter handle, John Danfulani @john_danfulani, was cited to have questioned: “Dear National Assembly, did you dole out large sums just for INEC to misappropriate the funds meant servers?”
Also another twitter handle: One.acre @NekkaSmith, was cited to have tweeted: “The anyhowness in Nigeria is why INEC will stand in court &dare to say that they do not have servers. Why did INEC request the large sums to deploy IT infrastructure?”
However, INEC National Commissioner for Voters Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, was cited to have said that, “The Commission prepared and assumed that the amendment to the Electoral Act may be signed into law.”
Okoye was said to have assured that INEC will give account of the resources budgeted and used for the general elections.
Meanwhile, the controversy over INEC servers is before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal; it is, therefore, not the issue of this report by National Daily. Emphasis here is on the server budget and Nigerians advocacy for accountability of the elections budget disbursed to INEC.