A High Court judge and author of a new book on electronic evidence in Nigeria, Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye, has highlighted a major step he said the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must take to protect results of the forthcoming general elections.
Justice Omolaye-Ajileye, who spoke at a public lecture the Rule of Law Development Foundation, ROLDF, organised in Abuja, said the electoral body should deploy “blockchain technology” for the elections.
He maintained that the technology would guarantee the protection of election results transmitted through the Bimodal Voter Registration System, BVAS.
A blockchain technology is a decentralized ledger that stores the record of ownership of digital assets. Any data stored on blockchain cannot be modified.
In his presentation, Justice Omolaye-Ajileye noted that though the BVAS could be compromised, he urged INEC to put impenetrable firewalls that would make it difficult for hackers to distort data captured by the device.
He said: “The BVAS should be the corner stone of our elections. However, where the BVAS fail in any state, the law says the election should be postponed.
“The problem with the BVAS is in the transmission of results from Polling Units to INEC server.
“For instance, between Abuja and Kaduna, if you want to travel, you will agree with me that there will be many risks involved, ranging from fear of armed robbers, bandits, kidnappers, etc.
“The same risks are there electronically. Between Polling Unit to INEC server, we have what I will describe as virtual bandits. Anything can happen. The object can be hacked into and the figures changed.
“Like in a paper I presented recently, I recommended blockchain technology for the INEC. We need to use it. If they have not deployed that in the current election, let them go and do so now”.
Continuing, Justice Omolaye-Ajileye said: “The BVA has been accorded a place of pre-eminence in determining over voting. There is now a redefinition of the concept of over voting.
“Lawyers and Judges, especially those that will be engaged in deciding election petitions in the forthcoming elections, must come to terms with this reality.
“In the old dispensation, the voter’s register constituted the parameter for the determination of over voting. Under the repealed Electoral Act, it was when the number of votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceeds the number of registered voters in that polling unit, that the Presiding officer shall cancel the result of the election in that polling unit.
“Under the new Act, where the number of votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceeds the number of accredited voters in that polling unit, the Presiding officer shall cancel the result of the election in that polling unit”.
Besides, Justice Omolaye-Ajileye stressed that once election results are transmitted through the BVAS, he said such results legally qualify as Electronically Stored Information, ESI.
He said electorates could request for such stored information from INEC.
“You have a right to request for such information to know if what was recorded at the polling unit was what was stored.
“I am not instigating litigations, but the thing is that people have to know this”, the judge added.
Meanwhile, in his address, the coordinator of the ROLDF, Mr. J. B. Daudu, SAN, described Justice Omolaye-Ajileye’s book entitled: “A-Z Of The Regime Of Electronic Evidence In Nigeria: Issues & Challenges”, as a masterpiece and necessary handbook for lawyers and judges.
He noted that courts in the country have continued to use electronic evidence in the resolution of commercial, contractual and electoral disputes.
“But its application is complex and that is where the books and treatises of the celebrant and his colleagues in this matter are relevant and constitute an indispensable tool in ensuring that justice is served in our judicial system”, Daudu, SAN, added.