Former ICT Minister Oblivious of EC Website

There was drama in Mukono High court on Tuesday when the former State Minister for Information and Computer Technology, Idah Erios Nantaba took to the stand for cross-examination in an election petition challenging her victory as Kayunga Woman Member of parliament. She was dragged to court by a concerned voter, Rittah Nabadda on accusations of voter bribery. 

However, Nantaba asked the court to throw out Nabadda’s petition on the grounds that the more than 500 people who endorsed the petition against her victory were nonvoters in Kayunga district since they were not verified by the Electoral Commission and there was no evidence implicating her for voter bribery.

On Tuesday, Nabadda’s lawyer, Gregory Byamukama asked Nantaba if she was aware as the former ICT Minister that one can verify voter identification numbers on the Electoral Commission website electronically. But Nantaba, who told the court that she was the ICT Minister from 2016 to 2020 told the court that she was not that such technology exists.

She also told the court that she doesn’t know her voter identification number and isn’t aware that EC maintains the voter register on its website where voters can verify their identification numbers using their National Identification Number-NIN. Nantaba turned down a request by Byamukama to look at the screen of his laptop computer for a demonstration of the voter verification process on the EC website, saying that cannot trust the website displayed on the screen. 

She instead asked the court to allow her to follow the process on her smartphone but later told the court that her telephone had failed because of a poor network. On the EC website (www.ug.ec.org), one selects the section of ‘Voter Info’ and then clicks on ‘Voter locator’ where there is a link requesting the NIN. Nantaba’s telephone stopped at the voter location section before she started claiming the network was not good.

Nantaba’s Lawyer, Ambrose Tebyasa objected to the demonstration of the electronic voter verification process, saying it was not necessary to present electronic evidence since they did not agree about it before the commencement of the trial.

Justice Collins Accellam ruled that the electronic process will further be assessed during submissions. On the allegations of voter bribery, Nantaba told the court that she only witnessed the delivery and distribution of relief items from the Office of the Prime Minister in Kambatani and Namalere villages and didn’t procure any item as alluded to by the petitioner. 

She, however, told the court that she was not invited officially invited to the distribution exercise and only recieved a telephone to attend the event from the OPM and the then Kayunga Chief Administrative Officer, Rosaline Adong. The petitioner’s lead lawyer, Robert Okalang put it to Nantaba that she took advantage of the poor situation of the local people to participate in the distribution of the items since she also addressed the gathering and was captured in pictures handing over jerricans to residents during the election period. 

However, Nantaba told the court that the purported pictures showing her distributing the items could have been picked anywhere from social media and that there are possibilities that they were captured at other functions that she previously attended. She, however, concurred with the petitioners that it is not proper for any candidate vying for an elective office to give out donations during the election period.

Other witnesses who swore affidavits challenging the petition against Nantaba were also cross-examined. These included the then, Acting Commissioner in Charge of Disaster Preparedness in the Office of the Prime Minister, Rose Nakabugo, who is now an advisor in the same office, and Kitaka Sserwadda, the LC I Chairperson of Kyedikyo Village in Galiraya Sub County. 

Nakabugo noted that OPM doesn’t give much attention to what is being requested in the district disaster reports but always gives out what they have. She, however, confessed that the report they based on to deliver the relief consignment to Kayunga didnt include Kambatani Village in the Galiraya sub-county where the consignment was delivered but only talked about Nazigo and Kangulumira sub-counties. 

Kevin Amjong, another lawyer for the petitioner was concerned to know whether Nakabugo understood the verification process of such items and how the CAO confirmed their quantity. Nakabugo surprised the court when she noted that the CAO doesn’t need to offload and confirm the items but only signs whatever is delivered and authorizes its dispatch to the recipients. 

Serwadda, who left the stands at 7:15 pm told the court that he only saw Nantaba observing the distribution of items without direct participation. The judge adjourned the court at 7:30 pm after setting a date for the two parties to make written submissions and delivery of judgment on March 10, 2023.

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