Regulator clarifies adequate 3G network required for e-transmission of vote in Nigeria

*The Nigerian Communications Commission says only 50 percent of all the polling units have the required 3G network coverage to electronically transmit election results in the country

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In view of the contentious provision for electronic transmission of votes in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that only half of the polling units have the required telecom network coverage to electronically transmit election results in the country.

ConsumerConnect reports Engr. Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner (Technical Services) and Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management of NCC, representing the Commission, were to testify before the House of Representatives in the National Assembly (NASS) Friday, July 16, 2021, in Abuja, FCT, stated that 3G network is needed to conduct electronic transmission.

The House of Representatives in a plenary

A report has noted that the network coverage study the telecoms regulatory Commission conducted in 2018, ahead of the 2019 General Elections, showed only about 50 percent of all the polling units in Nigeria are covered as required.

It was learnt the electronic transmission of votes is the most contentious provision in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which is expected to reform electoral processes in the country.

Voting on the provision reportedly had caused verbal and physical altercations among the Federal legislators during plenary earlier Thursday, July 15.

Several lawmakers also, have stood against electronic transmission, complaining that their areas around the country do not have telecoms network coverage.

Subsequently, the Legislature invited the NCC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enlighten lawmakers on the burning issue during the Friday plenary.

Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, at the session announced the House had withdrawn the invitation to INEC, but retained the NCC’s for the Commission to testify.

The NCC Executive Commissioner (Technical Services) said election results can be electronically captured offline in an area with no network coverage, and transmitted by physically moving to a network-covered area.

However, Maska, who spoke on behalf of the NCC, stated this approach does not compare with “direct transmission from the source”.

The commission cannot guarantee that electronic transmission of election results cannot be sabotaged by hackers.

He said: “No system is safe from hacking. Hacking is always a possibility.”

Asked if 2G Technology could be used for electronic transmission of results in the country, Engr. Maska said though he wished the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were around to answer.

He, however, said only 3G could transmit results effectively.

The lawmakers, at the conclusion of NCC’s presentation, passed the bill with the original provision that INEC may transmit election results through any procedure the commission determines.

Earlier in its own passage of the bill Thursday, the Senate has empowered NCC to first certify that national coverage is adequate and secure before INEC can decide to deploy the use of electronic transmission.

Meanwhile, Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, in a statement, said the decision on electronic transmission of results must be left with INEC.

Tambuwal stated: “The decision of the Senate to subject INECs constitutional power to conduct elections to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and National Assembly is patently unconstitutional.

“These constitutional powers have been solely and ‘Exclusively Prescribed By The Constitution to INEC, and Cannot Be Shared With the NCC’, or any other Authority, and certainly not a body unknown to the Constitution.

The Senate decision to subject INECs constitutional power to conduct elections to NCC is consequently patently void, unconstitutional and unlawful.

“We had earlier counselled that that the mode of conducting elections and in particular the transmission of votes be left with INEC who would monitor developments and determine at every election the type of technology to be deployed to ensure free, fair and credible elections.”

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