A day after information minister Lai Mohammed gave a contradictory position to that of the electoral commission, INEC, on the upload of presidential election results from polling units, Mr Mohammed doubled down on his statement but blamed the media for its interpretation.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Mohammed, while in the US, said INEC took a decision to suspend the uploading of presidential election results on its online platform, IReV, after the electoral commission suspected that the platform was susceptible to hacking.
“INEC, suspecting cyberattack, withheld the uploading of the results in order to preserve the integrity of the data,” the minister was quoted as saying by the government-owned News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
In other words, according to Mr Mohammed, because INEC suspected a cyberattack, it took deliberate action to withhold the uploading of the results.
The statement was, however, contradictory to what INEC told Nigerians a day after the election. In a statement by its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, INEC said the delay in uploading the presidential results was due to “technical hitches” and not because of sabotage.
“Consequently, the Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that the challenges are not due to any intrusion or sabotage of our systems and that the IReV remains well-secured,” INEC spokesperson Festus Okoye said then.
However, on Wednesday, in reaction to media reports and public criticism of his statement, Mr Mohammed blamed the media and specifically attacked PREMIUM TIMES.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, Mr Mohammed described the reports as “irresponsible and reckless.”
“The minister made the clarification on Wednesday in Washington DC, while reacting to the report published in some online platforms,” NAN reported.
“This is irresponsible and reckless journalism,” Mr Mohammed was quoted as saying.
Rather than explain why he was giving a contradictory statement to what the electoral commission told Nigerians, Mr Mohammed continued his attack on the media for accurately reporting him
“The truth of the matter is that one of the major problems in the polity today is a section of the media,” he said.
“These are people who cannot just believe that the Labour Party or the opposition did not win the election.
“They convinced themselves that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will lose the election.
“As a result of this there is nothing you want to say or do, they will find a way to twist it and make it what they want it to look like,” he said.
After his attack on the media, Mr Mohammed repeated the claim he made the previous day which is at variance with the position of INEC.
“What I said was that, during the election, there was a technical glitch and as a result of this and for INEC to protect the data, it suspended uploading of the results.
“INEC immediately set up a technical team to look into what went wrong and simultaneously floated another platform,” he said.
Mr Mohammed then made a false claim against PREMIUM TIMES, saying, “Of course, Premium Times has its own agenda.
“They inserted the word “deliberately” and omitted the phrase that it was in order to protect the sanctity of the data.
“They make it to look like INEC deliberately refused to upload the results.”
However, contrary to Mr Mohammed’s claim, this newspaper accurately interpreted what he said and reflected his justification for the claim.
In our Tuesday report, this newspaper stated that:
“Mr Mohammed said INEC’s decision to withhold the upload was because of a suspected cyberattack.
“INEC, suspecting cyberattack, withheld the uploading of the results in order to preserve the integrity of the data,” he said.
Read our Tuesday report here.
INEC keeps mum
The inability of INEC to upload presidential election results from polling units promptly is one of the reasons two opposition presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, are challenging the results of the election.
INEC had promised Nigerians that it would promptly upload the results as stated in its guidelines. But, apparently after addressing the technical hitches it had, INEC continued to upload the results and has uploaded over 94 per cent of the polling units’ results.
Perhaps because the matter of IReV use is now in court, INEC has not responded to Mr Mohammed’s claim. The commission’s spokesperson, Mr Okoye, did not also respond to calls and a text message on the matter sent by PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night.
In an earlier editorial, this newspaper had mentioned the inefficient use of the IReV as one of the flaws in the 2023 presidential election but stated that overall the election “demonstrated appreciable progress in the nation’s electoral process, in comparison to past ones.”