By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja – The Independent National Commission (INEC) has solicited the collaboration of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and telecommunications operators for deployment of electronic devices in the conduct of 2019 general elections.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the appeal when he led management of the commission on a visit to NCC Executive Vice-Chairman, Prof. Umar Dambatta, on Tuesday in Abuja.
Yakubu said that INEC was planning full deployment for e-collation and transmission of Ekiti and Osun governorship elections later in the year, and for the 2019 general polls.
He said that time had come to electronically collate and transmit election results from polling units to collation and declaration centres, explaining that doing so would enable results to be transmitted faster and more accurately.
Yakubu said that while the commission had the software and hardware to do the transmission, it needed to rely on telecommunications operators for the transmission of figures and scanned images of result sheets.
Towards these, he appealed to NCC, as the the industry regulator, to facilitate a meeting between INEC and telecommunications operators in the country to finalise preparations for the elections.
He said that the meeting would provide INEC with the combined network coverage map for all operators nationwide, including network strength that could help the commission to deploy e-collation system successfully.
“Since we shall also be transmitting scanned copies of result sheets, it is imperative to ascertain areas covered by 3Gand 4G networks and by which operator(s) across the country.
“The objective is also to discuss data security in the course of transmission of results in order to further safeguard the security of the process.
“The meeting is also imperative to discuss the provision, registration and exclusive use of SIM Cards with special numbers for use in its Smart Card Readers.
“These numbers should be registered in the name of INEC instead of the current practices of using cards sourced from the open market registered in the personal names of our officials.
“This will help in the management of database and dataset of the allocated numbers.
“Doing so will also enable the encryption of information thereby providing additional security in the course of transmitting both data and images,’’ he said.
Yakubu also called on NCC to facilitate discussion with the operators on ways to enhance cooperate social responsibility to Nigeria electoral process, especially on voter education and publicity.
“Towards the 2019 general elections, we would like the operators, in collaboration with INEC, to send bulk SMS on imperative of peaceful elections, the collection of Permanent Voter Cards by registered voters.”
He also called for synergy on directional information on the location of Polling Units for easy access to voters.
In his response, Dambatta expressed NCC’s reediness to be at the forefront of driving innovations that would improve the electoral process in the country.
He said that the commission was committed to ensuring and promoting free, fair and credible elections in the country, especially from 2019.
Dambatta added with ICT there was no need to be at election venue before election could be monitored, saying that today’s telecommunications had made nonsense of distance.
He assured that there was availability of telecom infrastructure, including 3G networks that would facilitates e-collation and transmission of election results.
“We will bring to bear our wealth of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and telecoms expertise in 2019 general elections to meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
“This is what we can achieve in 2019,’’ he said, adding that coming together by INEC, NCC and telecom companies to discuss would help to overcome some of the envisaged challenges.”
He added that there was no better time than now to commence voter education and publicity ahead of the 2019 elections.