CONTEXT: A Facebook post titled, “The New Electoral bill signed by Mr. President will affect our democracy” allegedly authored by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has gone viral. The post was made on a media page, PressExpress Nigeria, on Sunday July 24, 2022.
The post read “As an elder statesman in this country, atimes we sit and analyze some critical decisions which is affecting our democracy and the possible ways to tackle such decisions for it not to destroy our democracy.
“We all are aware of the new electoral act reform signed by Mr President that the results of every elections in Nigeria be electronically transmitted into the INEC server.
“Atimes bringing up leadership ideas is good but it should be weighed thoroughly if it will have any negative consequences in our present day society. We all witnessed what happened in Osun State where someone who’s not supposed to win an election automatically became the winner because of the new electoral act.
“It will be better we go back to our previous way of conducting an election in Nigeria where elections are conducted free and fair with the presence of party agents. After election, the results will be sorted out one after the other to know if there are issues of over voting or manipulations but this new reform does not provide such opportunity, which means that as the electorates are voting, results are going directly to INEC server immediately.
“What has advantage also has its own disadvantages. The earlier we rise up against this new reform before it destroys our democracy, the better for all of us because since this new act came on board, it has already started affecting our hard earned democracy already with what happened in Osun State, well meaning Nigerians will surely rise against such reform before it destroys our democracy.”
~ Bola Ahmed Tinubu
CLAIM 1: The new reform does not provide the opportunity for results to be sorted out one after elections to determine if there are manipulations or over voting.
VERIFICATION: The Electoral Act 2022 and INEC guidelines for conducting an election requires that thumbprinted ballots are sorted and counted in the full view of everyone present, including party agents. This is because the party agents also have a say in which of the ballots are classified as ‘rejected ballots’. There is always a consensus before decisions in this regard are reached.
Although INEC is now empowered to transmit elections results electronically, the presiding officer at the polling unit is mandated to transmit, first of all, the total number of accredited voters according to the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) to a dedicated INEC server/database immediately after accreditation and voting; but before commencement of sorting and counting procedures.
This serves as a double check on issues around over voting when the ballot box is finally emptied and the content sorted and counted. The number of voters accredited according to the BVAS must at the end of the process tally with the total of the valid and rejected votes.
Therefore, the claim that the new reform does not allow for sorting of votes is false and intended to mislead the general public.
CLAIM 2: The ‘author’ also alleged that as people are voting, results are going directly to INEC’s server.
VERIFICATION: At the polling unit level where votes are cast, BVAS is used for accreditation of voters. This device verifies the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) and authenticates the fingerprints or facials of the voter.
As voters go through the process of accreditation, the BVAS keeps count, beginning from the first individual who presents him/herself to the INEC officials for the purpose of voting. For every successful process, the device automatically adds the person to the previous number recorded by the device.
It is when everyone in the queue has successfully cast their vote that this number displayed on the BVAS is transmitted by the INEC officials to the server.
However, at the end of sorting and counting of ballots, the Presiding officer in charge of the polling unit takes a snapshot of the results sheet (FORM EC 8A) using the BVAS and transmits the total number of votes scored by all parties participating in the election, to the server.
This is contrary to the claim that “as electorates are voting, results are going directly to INEC server immediately.”
It is also worthy to note that a system where votes are being collated directly as claimed, is termed “electronic voting” which Nigeria is yet to practise, though it has been experimented a few times.
CLAIM 3: While urging Nigerians to rise up against the electoral reforms, the ‘author’ claimed that the Electoral Act has started affecting our democracy.
VERIFICATION: It is no longer news that before now, Nigeria witnessed elections marred by massive rigging due to over voting, writing of election results and all sorts of unimaginable irregularities. This led to the push by well-meaning Nigerians to have a more effective procedure (The Electoral Act 2022) to check these ills.
Contrary to the claim, the Electoral Act 2022 has deepened democracy as citizens are more aware of their power as voters and votes now count as evidenced by reports of several election observer groups.
The governorship election of Osun State, where an incumbent was defeated, attests to the fact that the wish of the people carried the day as against what was obtainable during the era of results writing.
All efforts to reach Tinubu’s spokesperson, Mr. Tunde Rahman, for comments on whether his boss authored the viral post proved abortive as he did not respond to calls by our correspondent or reply to messages sent to him.