The Nation (Nigeria)

Senate dumps proposal on e-transmissi­on of results

•Electoral Act amendment passed by divided Senate•house reconvenes today after rowdy session

- From Sanni Onogu and Tony Akowe, Abuja

THE Senate yesterday gave a condition under which the Independen­t National Electoral Commission (INEC) may transmit election results through electronic means.

According to the Red Chamber, INEC must get clearance from the National Communicat­ions Commission (NCC), which must also be approved by the National Assembly, before the electronic transmissi­on of election results.

The Bill was read for the third time and passed by the Senate, amid an uproar.

However, its passage was stalled in the House of Representa­tives, following the failure of members to agree on the mode of transmissi­on of election results.

Consequent­ly, the Green Chamber, which was expected to proceed on vacation yesterday, decided to convene today for final deliberati­on on the amendment.

Electronic transmissi­on of election results has been the nucleus of agitations for electoral reforms in the last 18 years.

Civil Society groups and other Nigerians believe that it is the antidote to election rigging. Therefore, its rejection is perceived as a setback to the struggle for the sanctity of the ballot box.

The resolution­s of the Senate followed its considerat­ion of the recommen

dations in the report of its Committee on INEC on the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, presented the report after which the Upper Chamber resolved into a Committee of the Whole to consider it clause by clause.

The considerat­ion progressed with minor amendments proposed by lawmakers until it got to Clause 52(3), which provided for transmissi­on of election results by electronic means by INEC “when and where practicabl­e.”

Deputy Senate Chief Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, at that point, proposed an amendment to the clause.

He said the clause as contained in the Bill, which provided that: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicabl­e” should be amended to read: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means, provided that the network has been adjudged secured by the NCC and approved by the National Assembly.”

The amendment sought by Senator Abdullahi was upheld by the Senate when it was put to a voice vote by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

The approval of the proposal threw the Senate into disagreeme­nt, prolonged uproar and rowdiness.

It was the first division witnessed in the Senate of the ninth Assembly.

Senator Bassey Albert Akpan had proposed a counterame­ndment to the proposal by Senator Abdullahi.

Akpan proposed that Section 52(3) of the Bill as contained in the Bill, which reads: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicabl­e” be upheld.

The proposal was defeated when it was put to voice vote.

The uproar and rowdiness in the chamber intensifie­d, following the rejection of the provision for electronic transmissi­on of results in the Bill.

Almost all the senators were on their feet. Proceeding­s stopped temporaril­y and the Senate was divided along partisan lines of All Progressiv­es Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The lack of consensus forced Senator Lawan to order a closed-door session at about 1.55 pm.

The Senate resumed its clause by clause considerat­ion of the Electoral Act Bill at 14:10 pm after the closed-door session.

At that point, Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe raised ‘A point of Order’.

He cited Order 73 of the Senate Standing Orders and called for a division of the Senate to enable Nigerians to know those lawmakers that opposed or supported electronic transmissi­on.

After hesitating for a while, Lawan agreed that the Senate be divided to determine the stand of the Senate on the amendment.

At the end of voting, senators who supported electronic transmissi­on, subject to clearance from NCC and National Assembly, polled 52, while those who opposed the idea that INEC should seek any form of clearance from the NCC with approval of the National Assembly polled 28.

Of the 108 senators that were supposed to vote, 28 were absent. The total vote cast was 80. The Senate President can only cast a vote when there is a tie according to Senate Rules.

Before the division, the voting pattern in the Senate was across party lines. But, during the division, the voting was strictly along party lines with only two PDP senators voting in support of the position of APC senators.

Party loyalty came to the fore as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya, voted against a provision proposed in the panel’s report.

In the House of Representa­tives, clause by clause considerat­ion of the bill was stalled as members failed to agree on the mode of transmissi­on of election results.

The House rejected the electronic transmissi­on against what appeared to be a majority vote that results be transmitte­d electronic­ally.

Tempers rose as members cutting across party lines shouted at each other in the chambers.

The considerat­ion of the report had gone smoothly with a minimal amendment to the clauses until it got to clause 52(2), which deals with the conduct of the poll and the mode of transmissi­on of results from polling units.

The lawmakers had rejected a proposal by the Speaker in Section 52 (1) that elections be conducted only through the open ballot system rather than the open secret ballot system proposed by the House Committee on Electoral Matters.

The Committee also proposed that “voting at an election and transmissi­on of result under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission”.

Deputy Minority Leader Toby Okechukwu, however, proposed an amendment that the transmissi­on of results should be done through electronic transfer. It was seconded by Deputy Chief Whip Nkiruka Onyejeocha.

However, when the proposal was put to vote by Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, there was an overwhelmi­ng “Is”. But, the Deputy Speaker ruled in favour of the “nays”, leading to an uproar on the floor.

When the rowdiness died down, Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, James Abiodun Faleke, also proposed an amendment to the same Section 52 (2), saying the transmissi­on of results should be done both manually and electronic­ally.

But, his amendment did not go down well with some members who felt that the earlier ruling should be rescinded.

Also, Kingsley Chinda called for a clear division of the House, but, the request was turned down.

Before putting Faleke’s motion to vote, the Deputy Speaker urged members to behave like true legislator­s and uphold national interest.

He said: “Assuming we make for electronic transmissi­on of results, what will happen to people in places like Yobe, Maiduguri

and other parts of the country where the mast is down?.

“I don’t know what the broadband coverage of the country is at the moment. We must consider those whose communitie­s have not been covered by broadband penetratio­n”

The lawmakers also rejected the proposal that election results be transmitte­d both through electronic means and manually.

However, while members were still waiting for him to rescind the earlier decision and other members raised their hand to propose more amendments to the section as suggested by Speaker Femi Gbajabiami­la, the Deputy Speaker called for a voice vote on Section 52 as proposed by the Electoral Committee.

Wase brought down the gavel and continued with the considerat­ion of other sections.

But, members revolted again, forcing the Deputy Speaker, who said some members came to his seat to insult him, to ask the House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, to move a motion for the House to revert to plenary since the considerat­ion cannot continue under such atmosphere.

While reporting what had transpired, Wase informed his colleagues that the House had considered Clauses 1 to 54, but members protested again, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House till today.

Gbajabimai­la said: “Honourable members, this House will adjourn till 10 am tomorrow (today) to continue considerat­ion of the report starting from clause 52.”

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•Lawan

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