INEC Server: CPA warns against Needless Controversy, says EU report exonerates INEC

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The Centre for Public Accountability CPA has warned against the attempt to drag the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) into what it termed as a needless controversy, over recent debates, surrounding the commission's response to the request for an access to its servers, by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 Presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Atiku and the PDP had approached the Presidential election petitions tribunal asking that it compels INEC, to grant him access to the results transmission server, used by the commission, during the presidential elections.

Speaking at a Press Conference in Lagos today through its Executive Director and Senior Program Officer, Olufemi Akindele and Umar Faruq respectively, the group said it wish to add its voice and raise some fundamental points, on the emerging controversies, related to the ongoing events, at the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal, especially as it concerns, the political parties, it's role as election observers and that of the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

CPA said it is imperative to remind Nigerians, that the last few days have witnessed heated debate, within and outside the tribunal, therefore attracting not only the attention of Nigerians, but also other stakeholders within the electoral chain. It should be noted that the main petitioner to the tribunal, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar did amongst other issues, approached the tribunal, requesting access to the result transmission server, deployed by the INEC, during the conduct of the 2019 presidential election. In making the request, the Atiku/PDP asked the court to order INEC to grant them access to the server, as part of the basis for confirming that the party and its candidate won the election.

In response to this demand by the PDP, the INEC through its counsel said the application for access to a server has attracted needles controversy over what is a simple matter. Without touching on the merit of the case which is subjudice, much of the comments in the public domain on the issue are generalizations, some of them mischievous, made without appreciation of the context of litigation over a narrow and specific issue.

Recall that the request for access to the INEC's server began with a witness statement on oath by the Atiku/PDP which refers to information from a specific server alleged to belong to INEC. The server is identified by a Physical/Mac Address 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9, a Mac Address being the unique identifier of a hardware such as a server, and running on Microsoft Product ID 00252-7000000000-AA535 which is claimed to be exclusive to INEC.

It was on this basis, that the petitioners then applied for leave of the Tribunal to compel INEC to allow it to inspect the said server. Thereby making the application a request for ACCESS TO A SPECIFIC SERVER.

"Our assessment, going by the above reality, is that INEC's response to the tribunal, which has now become a major subject of these controversies, is that the SPECIFIC SERVER in question neither exists in, nor belongs to the Commission, and cannot therefore grant access to what it does not have." the group further said

The group also advised that "rather than resorting to needless controversies, the Atiku/PDP and others who have joined the raging debate, should clearly analyse the relevance of INEC’s Legal team response to their SPECIFIC demand, and not misconstrue it, to mean a blanket denial that the Commission SERVERS or that INEC has no servers at all. Resorting to such may be misleading, especially to the unsuspecting populace who are keenly following developments, at the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal."

"We should also remind ourselves, that INEC as an umpire, is not under any obligation to assist a petitioner or defendant, in establishing its case, outside the basic obligations it has, under our laws. The truth remains that the onus is on the petitioners to prove their allusion and establish their claims, and not for INEC to do."

CPA also said it will be unjust for INEC, to produce anything or evidence, that it doesn't have, especially when it is contained in a definite statement made under oath, about a specific equipment which is unknown to INEC.

On the recent report on Nigeria's 2019 elections by the European Union, CPA said it has thoroughly examined the recent report of the EU and it is impressed to know that the EU in the report, confirms that the election witnessed an improvement by the Commission, above its previously conducted elections in the past.

"As democrats, we uphold our strong belief in the right of petitioners to pursue their case against the outcome of the election, to a logical end, but our concern is that such should not be done at the detriment of the sanctity of our electoral institution as represented by INEC."