The Independent National Electoral Commission, on Friday, revealed how its result viewing portal got several attacks from hackers across the world, including Asia, during the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States.
The commission, however, expressed optimism that the days of manipulation of results were over having blocked all avenues for such irregularities.
The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated these while delivering a keynote address at a conference of stakeholders on election result management, organised by Yiaga Africa, to launch the Election Result Analysis Dashboard report agenda.
At the event, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, while presenting the ERAD findings on electronic transmission of election results in the 2022 Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, said there were four key roles of ERAD.
According to him, ERAD promotes transparency of election results management and supports INEC by providing the public with access to election results from the polling unit in relative real-time.
He said it provides an independent audit and integrity test of INEC’s election results management system by tracking results from the polling units based on commission’s own published results among others.
Itodo said, “INEC should invest in the training of polling unit officials, with a special focus on result transmission, ballot paper accounting as well as the capturing of polling unit results using the BVAS. It will address the capacity deficits resulting to upload of incorrect or incomplete forms and blurry images.
“In addition to the transmission of polling unit level results, INEC should electronically transmit and publish the number of accredited voters on the IReV. This is in accordance with the Section 64(4) (5)(6) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“INEC should deepen the transparency of the collation process, the Form EC8B, Ward collation result sheet should be uploaded on the IReV portal at the close of collation at the ward level. It will facilitate monitoring and tracking of the results collation process.”
Yakubu said the commission had recorded several attempts to hack the cyber security system of the IReV portal.
He said, “Another technical concern for us is the repeated attempts to break through our cyber security system for the portal. Our Engineers reported several cyberattacks on the portal during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, some of them from as far as Asia. I am glad to note that all of them failed.
“However, while we are confident in the security solutions that we have deployed for IReV and all our web presence, we must remain vigilant and continue to strengthen our defences. We have tasked our engineers to do everything possible to fully protect the IReV and all our web resources.”
Yakubu also stated that INEC was working to address other administrative challenges.
“For example, we found out that some of the low-quality uploads that occurred in the field, which some of the observers have also noted, were due to the unavailability or substitution of presiding officers that were trained prior to the elections.
“We shall administratively deal with this challenge and ensure that only adequately trained Presiding Officers are deployed for elections.
“Also, more hands-on training may be required to ensure that all those involved throughout the value chain of the IReV are fully ready for what is bound to be a major outing during the 2023 general election”, he said.
The INEC chairman also announced the introduction of new legal provisions, administrative procedures and technological innovations to improve election conduct in 2023.
Yakubu said INEC was convinced that the application of technology to both accreditation and results management would improve transparency and trust in the electoral process.
He said the breakthrough came with the new Electoral Act 2022, which empowered the commission to adopt electronic means for both accreditation and results management.
According to him, the most critical technological tools introduced by the commission in recent times were the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and IReV portal, adding that while the former was a device, the latter was a web portal.
He said the BVAS was used for two principal purposes, first, to identify and accredit voters using two biometric modes: fingerprint and facial recognition, and secondly, it for capturing and uploading the image of the Polling Unit result Form (Form EC8A), to the IReV portal.
Yakubu said, “Indeed, using the law, administrative measures and technology, the commission has drastically tackled major problems in result management in Nigerian elections.
“Among the top ten of such problems are falsification of scores at Polling Units, falsification of number of accredited voters, collation of false results, mutilation of results and computational errors.
“Others are swapping of result sheets, forging result sheets, snatching and destruction of result sheets, obtaining declaration and return involuntarily, making declaration and return while result collation is still in progress and poor recordkeeping.
“It is clear that armed with an improved electoral act, administrative procedures and requisite technology, the Commission has increased the transparency and confidence of the public in its election result management processes. I can confidently say that the days of wanton manipulation of elections results are over; yet, the commission is not resting on its oars.”