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E-transmission: NCC officials lied, must be prosecuted for perjury –PDP Reps

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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.

Culled from the Punch News Nigeria

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EFCC arrests ex-governor, wife over corruption allegations

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The ex-governor is being grilled at the headquarters of the EFCC in Abuja, sources say.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested a former Governor of Nasarawa State and serving senator, Tanko Al-Makura, and his wife, Mairo.

The couples are currently being grilled by operatives of the anti-graft agency at its headquarters in Abuja, sources in the anti-graft agency told PREMIUM TIMES.

Although details of the allegation against the ex-governor and his wife were sketchy as of press time, the sources said their arrest relates to an alleged breach of trust and misappropriation of funds allegedly perpetrated during the former governor’s eight-year administration as Nasarawa State governor.

Mr Al-Makura served as Governor of Nasarawa State between 2011 and 2019 before he was elected into the National Assembly as Senator representing Nasarawa South Senatorial District.

When contacted, the spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren said he was yet to be briefed on the development.

When contacted for his comment, the ex-governor’s spokesperson, Danjuma Joseph, said he was not aware of the arrest.

“His Excellency left Lafia (Nasarawa State capital) for Abuja this morning. I am not aware of such arrest,” Mr Joseph said.

The former governor, until Wednesday, has never been known to be facing EFCC probe.

The EFCC had, in fact, been helpful to the ex-governor’s family when a suspected fake investigator allegedly tried to defraud the then sitting governor in 2018.

The suspect, Mohammed Momoh, was said to have while posing as a “private investigator from the villa” approached Mr Al-Makura’s wife with a proposition to help stop a purported investigation of two accounts belonging to the governor.

Mr Momoh, who was arraigned before an FCT High Court, reportedly claimed that he came across information regarding the two accounts that had been under investigation since 2011 and also intercepted mails of an investigation report purportedly sent to First Bank by the

Culled from the Premium Times Nigeria

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How NCC misled lawmakers, Nigerians on electronic transmission of election results

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Documents emerge showing NCC, telecom operators and INEC agreed to transmit election results electronically.

In the presence of journalists, and an anxious public, the Senate passed the electoral bill on July 15. The next day, again amid chaos, the House of Representatives passed it too.

Allegations of backdoor moves to alter the consensus provisions of the bill were rife prior to the passage, all of which the National Assembly denied.

Long sought by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and craved by many Nigerians, the provision in section 52(3) for the electronic transmission of election results generated the most controversy.

Proponents wanted the National Assembly to legally empower INEC with the responsibility to transmit election results electronically.

However, legislators, especially of the All Progressives Congress, many of whom voted along party lines, voted against it.

At the House of Representatives, the passage of the bill was brokered by a remarkable legislative maneuver which the opposition described as undemocratic.

INEC’s power to transmit election results electronically is now subject to the proposition of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the approval of the National Assembly.

By doing so, the National Assembly has stripped INEC of the independence it was due, analysts believe.

Assisted by the submission by the NCC, the National Assembly believes that INEC does not have the capacity to do it on its own, a development that has startled officials at the electoral commission, this newspaper learnt.

Findings by PREMIUM TIMES, however, show that the NCC, the regulatory agency for the telecoms sector, misled the lawmakers and indeed Nigerians on the electronic transmission of results; a view also shared by INEC.

INEC says NCC lied

When the debate at the House of Representatives on electronic transmission of results became heated, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, ruled that the NCC and INEC would be invited to guide the House on whether or not electronic transmission of results was practicable across the country.

When the NCC representative, Adeleke Adewolu, appeared before the lawmakers about a fortnight ago, he said less than half of the polling units in Nigeria have the needed network coverage for the transmission of election results.

The NCC commissioner, technical services, Ubale Maska, corroborated this by saying that by the survey the NCC conducted in 2018, about 50.3 per cent of the 109,000 polling units out of 119,000 polling units have 3G network facilities. Others, he noted, are with 2G network, while some are without coverage as of 2018.

To the consternation of many Nigerians including opposition lawmakers, INEC was not allowed to brief lawmakers on the matter, with majority of the lawmakers, perhaps influenced by the position of the NCC, voting against electronic transmission of results.

INEC, however, publicly faulted the claim that electronic transmission of results was not realisable due to poor network coverage across the country.

In what he described as a “blatant lie” during African Independent Television (AIT) breakfast programme Kakaaki, INEC’s director of publicity and voter education, Nick Dazang, faulted the claims by the NCC officials.

“In January 2018, INEC approached NCC that it wants a technological-driven Commission and both have been working closely to deliver free, fair and credible elections in our country for the benefit of our citizens. They are also aware that two network providers- MTN and Airtel have assisted JAMB conduct their examinations across Nigeria. So INEC is still wondering why NCC has suddenly made a U-turn that there is not enough network coverage in every part of Nigeria,” he said.

“I am convinced that if INEC was given the chance to appear before the National Assembly alongside NCC, the Commission would have told the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members that all the network providers in Nigeria have assured INEC that network coverage is 100 per cent across the country,” Mr Dazang insisted.

“There is no website that is not prone to attack by hackers even in the most advanced nations but Nigerians should be rest assured that INEC has what it takes to fight off hackers and the Commission is well prepared to safeguard its websites against hackers.”

Documents back INEC, show NCC lied

Documents have now emerged affirming the capacity INEC had built prior to the 2019 general elections and which was vetted by both the NCC and officials of the four telecommunication companies. The documents also counter the submissions made by NCC.

The two documents seen by this newspaper detailed the minutes of the meetings INEC held in 2018 with the NCC and the telecoms.

The overall resolution was that electronic result transmission was “practicable” in spite of the improvements that were suggested.

NCC’s meeting with INEC in 2018

Pressed by a desire to improve Nigeria’s electoral system, the Independent National Electoral Commission chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, on January 30, 2018, visited his counterpart at the Nigerian Communications Commission, Umar Danbatta.

Top of the agenda of the meeting between delegates of the two government agencies was to discuss how they could collaborate to enhance the electoral process in the country.

The meeting birthed a joint technical committee, delegates of which were drawn from both teams and whose mandate was to “map out strategies that will reduce human interventions in the transmission of election results” while also ensuring quality electoral service delivery.

Headed by the NCC’s executive commissioner for technical services, Ubale Maska, it was co-chaired by INEC’s national commissioner, Muhammed Lecky.

From March 2018, the joint technical committee began to meet and it opted for the “traditional data communication connection service from MNOs using APN as the most appropriate solution for the electronic transmission of election results.”

This method, the final report of the committee submitted August 9, 2018, and reviewed by this medium showed, would help minimise cost and ensure “security and data confidentiality” which are “not guaranteed by the other solutions that were explored.”

This would require all operators to configure “one Access Point Name (APN) and Virtual Private Network (VPN) towards the INEC platform to enhance security,” one of the documents read.

While NCC was to present the network coverage map of the country detailing 2G, 3G and 4G coverage, INEC was tasked to provide the GPS coordinates of all its PUs nationwide.

The mappings will be mapped to the network coverage network (2G, 3G or 4G) and strength prevalent in each polling unit documents show.

“The coordinates of the INEC polling UNITS (PUs) and Ward Collation Centres (WCC) be forwarded to the Operators to enable superimposition of the same into their respective coverage maps,” the documents further read.

“The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards to be used by INEC’s Card Readers should be customized to carry unique security features and functionalities.”

It was further resolved that the NCC should liaise with the law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the telecom infrastructure, especially during the election.

At the time, INEC had 119,973 polling units, and it was able to provide the coordinates for 118,302, and the commission was expected “to supply the balance of 1,671 PUs in due course.”

“Similarly, NCC carried out a coverage analysis of the PUs on the national mobile network coverage map based on the standard signal strength threshold of -95dBm.”

Telecoms consensus

In March 2018, INEC and NCC met with the quartet telecommunication companies of MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9 Mobile to discuss “technology requirements for the electronic transmission of results (ETR) and its implications.” The four mobile operators together account for virtually all of Nigeria’s mobile telephone networks.

After the meeting, the consensus reached by all the operators was that “the requirements for the ETR proposed by INEC is practicable.”

They resolved at the meeting that “the solution that the INEC wants to deploy is possible, bearing in mind the cost implication related to network coverage especially in the remote areas where INEC have PUs and WCCs.”

Again, at another meeting on April 5, 2018, according to the minutes seen by PREMIUM TIMES, mobile operators in the country “all committed to the workability of the solution, having done similar service for JAMB and the FIRS.”

On one hand, MTN and Airtel both confirmed that they have jointly implemented similar solutions for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). On the other hand, 9 Mobile said it had done so for FIRS.

They nonetheless said there was a need for a “high level of confidentiality” to shield the system from infrastructure and personnel attacks “by unscrupulous politicians,” proper test running and deeper understanding of the systems.

This was to help “completely eliminate human interference in the result collation process in the country.”

This optimism came about a year to the 2019 general elections. However, largely because there was no legal backing for it, INEC did not implement in the 2019 elections.

With the next general elections about two years away, the NCC sang a different tune, thus influencing lawmakers to reject electronic transmission of results which many Nigerians believe would bring more transparency to the electoral process.

Culled from the Premium Times Nigeria

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Food insecurity looms in Northern Nigeria — UN

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A UN official said an estimated 13 million people in northern Nigeria face the risk of acute food insecurity in the next few months.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Global Environment Facility (GEF) said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had warned that people in northern Nigeria are at risk of acute food insecurity.

The UN-FAO projected that an estimated 13 million people in the area face the risk of acute food insecurity in the next few months.

Rhoda Dia, Project Manager, UNDP – GEF, in charge of Resilient Food Security Project, gave out this information on Wednesday while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

Ms Dia who spoke on phone with NAN said the warning had become imperative because the country was facing growing levels of acute food insecurity due to decades of insecurity across the country.

She said the insecurity had resulted in increasing poverty and economic crises.

According to Ms Dia, the situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and recently, the series of clashes between farmers and herders.

She stated that, women, girls and the elderly were the most vulnerable groups to climate change, adding that it was because they were highly exposed to climate risks.

Ms Dia said the adaptive capacity of these groups was low, which according to her was constrained by the poor quality of access to, and control of resources.

She added that they were more likely to live in poverty, as they were traditionally excluded from the decision-making process at local, national, and international levels.

“Food production requires the use of valuable resources such as land, ecosystems, water, energy among others and its wastage results in high water and carbon footprint losses,” Ms Dia said.

She said that the global estimate of agricultural waste produced yearly was approximately 1,000 million tonnes with the current market size for waste to energy of 30 billion dollars at a rate of 4.4 per cent.

The project manager said that, Nigeria’s palm oil production industry alone generated over 90 million tonnes of effluent annually.

“The country is also generating 4.34 million tonnes of rice straw and 0.9 million of rice husk, and has an estimated 19.5 million cows which also generate waste.

“With the increasing Nigeria population, it is projected that the quantity of agriculture waste generated in the country will triple in coming decades,” she said.

Ms Dia said that with respect to agricultural waste, there existed the potential of resourcefully reusing the materials to reduce environmental harm and boost soil fertility and farm productivity.

She said that the time was ripe for northern regions to tap into the potential present in converting agricultural wastes to energy as well as other economically viable re-purposed products.

Ms Dia said it was against this backdrop that Sonvisage Nig. Ltd. in collaboration with the UNDP- GEF- IAP Project was training extension agents from project communities.

She said the training was on Waste-to-Wealth that is, rice and groundnut waste re-purpose for self-reliance training.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the UNDP-GEF is currently training extension workers in Kano on how to turn waste to energy (briquettes making) and waste to animals feed (livestock and poultry). (NAN)

Culled from the Premium Times Nigeria

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