The Peoples Democratic Party Caucus in the House of Representatives has called for criminal investigation and prosecution of officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission for alleged perjury.
Leader of the PDP Caucus, Kingley Chinda, in a statement issued on Tuesday, alleged that the officials lied under oath while appearing before the House on Friday to explain the possibility of having results of elections transmitted electronically from across Nigeria.
Following a stalemated consideration of the report on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill over the controversial Clause 52(2), Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had called for the suspension of the exercise and summoned the NCC and the Independent National Electoral Commission to appear and guide the lawmakers on Friday.
While INEC did not show up, officials of the NCC led by the Executive Commissioner (Stakeholder Management), Adeleke Adewolu; Executive Commissioner (Technical Services), Ubale Maska, and two others had appeared before the lawmakers.
Maska, however, answered all the questions asked by the lawmakers.
However, in the statement titled ‘NCC Lied to Nigerians on Electronic Transmission of Votes and Should Face Prosecution’, the PDP caucus alleged that officials of the commission misled the House with their presentation.
The statement read, “It was a show of shame on the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday, July 17, 2020 during the consideration of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
“The comedy of errors started by the House stopping INEC from appearing before the House to prevent the nation from learning the truth and allowing only NCC to appear to discuss issues on the ability or otherwise of INEC to handle electronic transmission of votes.
“Officials of the NCC, led by Executive Director, Ubale Maska, who represented the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umaru Garba Danbatta, appeared and an oath was administered on them consistent with the Section 5 of the Legislative House (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017.
“While testifying before the House, on the adoption of electronic transmission of results from the units, Ubale Maska claimed that the 2018 Technical Report of the NCC showed that only about ‘50 per cent of the polling units had 3G while 49 percent had 2G network and below.’ His answers and body language clearly betrayed his intense desire to mislead the House and the nation.
“He cleverly sought to rely on 2018 data in 2021, when they knew or ought to know that internet penetration has advanced substantially in Nigeria since 2018.
“Indeed, a perusal of NCC website even today shows that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 (P .33) says that by September 2019, the spread of 3G/LTE had reached 74.2 per cent in Nigeria.”
The caucus also recalled that a telecommunications giant, MTN Nigeria, recently announced that it had achieved extensive nationwide network coverage of 89.9 per cent. “This is just MTN, not to talk of other networks,” Chinda noted.
The statement further read, “Perhaps the worst form of perfidy, deception and outright lies is for NCC to hide the Memorandum of Understanding between NCC and INEC in 2019. During preparations for the 2019 general election, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman, had in January 2018 visited the NCC to discuss collaboration that would enhance the electoral process.
“A joint technical committee of INEC and NCC was subsequently formed with a mandate to map out strategies that would reduce human interventions in the transmission of election results. The committee was headed by Maska and co-chaired by Muhammed Lecky, an INEC National Commissioner.”
“After several meetings and engagements, it was then recommended that the ‘INEC/NCC Joint Technical Committee should consider and adopt the traditional data communication service from MNOs using APN as the most appropriate solution for the electronic transmission of election results.’”
According to the caucus, “the icing on the cake” is the categorical declaration by INEC, through its spokesman, Festus Okoye, that the commission has the capacity to transmit election results from any part of the country, no matter the terrain.
The opposition lawmakers said Okoye’s confirmation “has put the final nail on the coffin of the purveyors of the fallacy that it cannot be done,” recalling that electronic transmission was recently deployed by INEC in Edo, Ondo, Borno, Kaduna elections, etc.
The statement added, “It is obvious that there are fifth columnists and anti-democratic elements who are afraid of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
“For a witness to be sworn under Section 5 of the Legislative House (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017, then to lie under oath and give false evidence to the House, is an offence under Section 7 of the same Act.
“We call on the prosecuting authorities to immediately arrest the officials of the NCC under Prof Danbatta and all those who procured Ubale Maska and other officials to lie under oath to be criminally investigated and where found culpable, be brought to justice by standing criminal trial.
“We must maintain the integrity of our laws and the sanctity of our institutions as a nation.”
On Friday, Maska, was asked about the possibility of hacking INEC’s electronic transmission system; if the NCC has ever done a coverage analysis of the entire country; if it is possible to upload election result where there is not network like online registrations and bank service; if NIGCOMSAT can deploy a satellite that covers the entire country and provide services for polls; if Unstructured Supplementary Service Data can work.
Maska partly said, “The first question as to whether the commission has done an analysis of network coverage nationwide especially captured and un-captured, which I prefer to mean served or un-served areas, and this can be broken down into states, I must say here that, yes, we have this data. We have it nationwide, we have it on a state basis and we have even on the basis of service whether it is 2G, 3G or 4G or LTE. We have all these analyses.
“We did an analysis of network coverage in 2018 in respect of all polling units in the country. We found out we had about 119,000; we were able to get the coordinates of about 109,000 and we plotted across the map of the country. We superimposed the network coverage with that of service providers.
“We plotted 2G, 3G and (4G) LTE coverage. We were able to see that about half of the polling units were covered with 2G/3G services, roughly about 50.3 per cent. Then, about 49.7 did not have any coverage; they had only 2G, and about 8000 polling units had none at all.”
When asked if results could be transmitted via a 2G network, the NCC official said INEC was the appropriate authority to answer the question. “From a personal standpoint; from what I could tell from what is required, it is only 3G that could give that kind of transmission in full,” he added.
On hacking, Maska said, “I’m sure it is open knowledge to us here that there is no system that is safe from hacking. You can do your best to secure it but no system is 100 per cent hack-free. I’m sure members would have read about the elections in the United States in 2016 and the widespread belief that the election was hacked by the Russians. Every day you read about hackers breaking into banks, insurance companies and other industries. So, hacking is always a possibility.”
About offline capturing of data, the NCC official said, “This is possible. It is possible that in an area that is not covered, you could record it and then physically move to another location. But, you cannot guarantee this kind of movement. It does not compare with direct transmission from the source.”
Maska, however, said he could not comment on NIGCOMSAT and its satellites.