Thursday, January 8, 2015

Nigeria: Opposition accused of planning to rig polls

The Department of State Services (DSS) has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of cloning the data of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) with the aim of smuggling spurious names into the voter register.

DSS spokesman Marilyn Ogar made the allegation yesterday during a media briefing where she explained that items retrieved from the APC Data Centre on November 20, 2014, in Lagos, showed that the party was also planning to hack into INEC’s database.

But in its reaction, the APC has dismissed as “hogwash the so-called’ findings of the DSS following its Gestapo-like raid” on the party’s offices in Lagos, saying the findings presented to the media by the agency yesterday was a great disservice to Nigeria and an embarrassment to all intelligence gathering organisations around the world.

Ogar, who said a search warrant was obtained before the raid, contrary to the allegation that the service invaded the party’s premises unauthorized, disclosed that materials and documents confiscated from the office revealed that the party had officers and men of the various security agencies as registered party members.

The service also said it discovered that the APC contravened Article 9.1 of its constitution by registering underage persons, including several infants and babies, as members of the party. Similarly, she said, the APC registered several security personnel from the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and Federal Road Safety Corps, among others, in their uniforms as members of the party.

According to her, a DSS operative whose picture was found in the APC database, but with a wrong name, is being investigated and would be sanctioned if he is found to have voluntarily registered with the party. She also disclosed that all the other security agencies had been contacted on the issue.

Ogar restated that the service raided the APC office based on intelligence it received that a building was being used for cloning INEC’s PVCs by some unscrupulous persons with aim of hacking into INEC database, corrupt it and replace same with their own data, and revealed that all the arrested suspects had been granted bail by the courts.

“Upon receiving the said report, the Service immediately took appropriate steps to investigate same by first seeking and obtaining a search warrant as required by law. The DSS operatives found that the building did not have any signpost, banner or flag of any company or political party,” Ogar said.

The DSS spokeswoman stated that during investigation, the service recovered temporary voter cards, permanent voter cards (PVCs), noting that one of the hard drives recovered from the building contained a video of 21 hacking tutorials.

“The video outlined ways to identify vulnerabilities in systems and how to surreptitiously drop a USB flash drive in a target establishment, which when plugged into any computer transmits malicious codes enough to gain access into and compromise the entire system of the target organization.

“Finally, the video explains how to hack into the systems of media houses, with the aim of broadcasting fake stories or headlines. From the foregoing, we suspect that there was an elaborate and well-articulated plan to inflate the party’s membership data as well as hack into INEC’s voter registration database through the creation of party membership forms and cards to match INEC’s voter register across the country.

“Furthermore, the APC had multiple registrations of individuals in multiples of 16, 12, and 10. Several foreigners were also registered as its members, as well as underage children,” Ogar stated.

But in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by the APC national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party described the timing of the release of the ‘findings’ as a plot orchestrated in collusion with the PDP to distract the APC from its ongoing campaigns for next month’s elections.

It described the DSS allegation as “disingenuous, flimsy, premeditated, partisan and an irritant.”

The APC spokesman said: ‘’First the DSS and the PDP said the APC was cloning Permanent Voter Cards at the raided office, without a shred of evidence. Now, after a ‘painstaking’ investigation, the DSS has found out that the APC was only planning to inflate its membership data and then hack into INEC’s database. And this is the outcome of its massive, months-long investigations?

‘’This would have been funny if it were not from a primary domestic intelligence agency saddled with a great responsibility. Can this wishy-washy report stand any serious scrutiny? Can any serious intelligence gathering agency anywhere else in the world take this report seriously? With these kinds of findings, one can now understand why Boko Haram has continued to strike at times and places of its own choosing without any prior knowledge by our all-powerful DSS.

‘’Even the presentation of the report by a poorly-trained and highly-politicized spokesperson of the DSS worsened the so-called findings. Why would the spokesperson of a national agency sound like a megaphone for the ruling party, freely castigating the opposition spokesman and ‘’a number of uninformed members of the public’’? Why does she have to go personal in presenting a report that supposedly is in the national interest?

‘’We have always warned that our democracy is in clear and present danger, not just from desperate politicians, but also from institutions of state that have compromised in their roles and resorted to crass lawlessness. The DSS’ ‘findings’ today have given us another reason to repeat this warning.

‘’While we are willing to meet the DSS in court, we can confidently say that the ‘confessions’ extracted from the arrested persons, after they were subjected to incredible acts of torture, cannot even stand in any court of law.”

The party recalled that in its statement of December 5, 2014, it accused the DSS of resorting to the use of torture to obtain forced confessions from those who were arrested during the first raid on the party’s Data Centre in Ikeja.

‘’In that statement, we called the action of the DSS a contravention of the UN Convention against Torture to which Nigeria is a signatory, and a violation of the citizens’ fundamental human rights.

‘’We also said the DSS shackled the hands and legs of those arrested and blindfolded them while they were being taken to Abuja. The arrested persons remained in chains even at the dark detention cell where they were made to sleep on the bare floor for the 10 days they were detained illegally.

‘’Guns were pointed at their heads by DSS personnel who threatened to shoot them, while a pregnant woman among those who were arrested was denied access to her drugs even when she started bleeding due to the torture to which she was subjected by the DSS.

“Now the DSS has confirmed what we said in that press statement. Is anyone still surprised at the action of countries that are distancing themselves from Nigeria over human rights violations?’’ it queried.

APC said the impending release of the ‘great findings’ by the DSS after its ‘world-class’ investigations must have been the reason why the agency recently threatened that it would arrest any politician who makes inciting comments.

‘’Apparently the DSS needed to silence all so that no one will dare criticize its earth-shaking ‘findings,’” it added.


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