The Nation (Nigeria)

Senators, Repspage explain positions on Electoral Bill

•‘INEC should use technology’

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SOME senators and House of Representa­tives members yesterday explained their decision to vote for or against electronic transmissi­on of election results in the amended Electoral Bill.

The lawmakers who voted “No” have come under fire, with Nigerians accusing them of working against credible elections.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the senators attached conditions to the electronic transmissi­on of election results because only 50 per cent of the country’s polling units could use technology to transmit results.

He said the Senate’s stance was based on informatio­n provided by the Nigerian Communicat­ions Commission (NCC).

In passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill last Thursday, the Senate provided that the NCC must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure, while the National Assembly must give approval before the Independen­t National Electoral Commission (INEC) can transmit election results electronic­ally.

Some Nigerians have criticised the Senate’s position, arguing that it was contrary to the constituti­onally guaranteed independen­ce of INEC.

Lawan told reporters in Yobe State that Nigeria, to him, has not reached the stage where it can deploy technology in every polling unit, but agreed that it will make the process credible.

He said: “All of us in the Senate, 109 of us, believe that at one point, our electoral process must deploy electronic transmissi­on so that it eases and enhances the electoral process and gives it more credibilit­y and integrity.

“No matter what anybody may say, you cannot have about 50 per cent of Nigerian voters not participat­ing or not getting their votes counted in elections and say it doesn’t matter, that we have to start the electronic transmissi­on.

“We know the evils of not transmitti­ng results electronic­ally, but compare the evils of electronic­ally transmitti­ng just half of the electoral votes from Nigerians and say you have elected a president with 50 per cent only.

“What I mean here is that you have senators from the northern part of Nigeria who voted for electronic transmissi­on. Maybe that is their belief or their environmen­t is ready for electronic transmissi­on.

“And you have Senators from the southern part of Nigeria who voted against the immediate deployment of electronic transmissi­on but they support that the electronic transmissi­on of results should be allowed after certain conditions are met and the conditions are simple.

“The NCC had provided the technical informatio­n that only NCC could give – that only about 50 per cent of the Nigerian environmen­t, the polling units, in the country could possibly have their results electronic­ally transmitte­d.”

Lawan said senators who voted against the immediate use of electronic transmissi­on are not against the use of technology.

Spokesman of the House of Representa­tives, Benjamin Kalu said the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the Petroleum Industry Bill were still open to further amendment as no legislatio­n is perfect.

He said: “On the electoral bill, one thing you must take home is that the turning point was clause 52 (2) which was on whether or not electronic transmissi­on should be used or left at the discretion of the umpire, INEC.

“What brought the delay was the issue of teledensit­y. Do we have the right coverage to be able to capture all and not disenfranc­hised the hinterland? Some argued for and others against. Emotions flew from left, right and centre.

“Some argued for the manual option, some for fully electronic options. Others preferred semi-manual, semi-electronic which was a middle approach to it. That was where we stopped…

“The current position is that it will be at the discretion of the umpire to decide when it is necessary to use an electronic or manual transmissi­on.”

The three Senators representi­ng Cross River State are all of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but one of them, Sena

From Tony Akowe, Grace Obike, Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja; Nwanosike Onu, Awka; Bisi Olaniyi, Benin; Bisi Oladele, Ibadan; Bassey Anthony, Uyo; Nsa Gill, Calabar and Rosemary Nwisi, Port Harcourt

tor Steven Odey, took a different position on electronic transmissi­on of results.

Odey told our correspond­ent: “I voted no to the electronic transfer of results because, even in my own village, there is no telephone network.

“If my people cast their votes and it is not transmitte­d electronic­ally, then, I have disenfranc­hised them. I am in the rural area of Cross River North.

“If you go to parts of Ukele in Yala, Local Government Area, there is no network there. If you go to a part of Mbube community, there is no network there, etc. so, I voted for what is right for my people.”

Senator Ifeanyi Ubah said he was in favour of the electronic transmissi­on of results.

He said he walked out of the Senate chamber because he was stopped by the leadership from airing his view during plenary.

Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, urged Independen­t National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accelerate the use of technology to enhance the credibilit­y of voting and electronic transmissi­on of declared results.

Speaking at the fifth Biennial Convention of the class of 84 of St. Pius Grammar School, Onicha Ugbo, Elumelu decried poor electoral awareness and participat­ion.

The senator representi­ng Oyo South, Dr Kola Balogun, said he voted for electronic transmissi­on of results because he believes credible elections will deepen democracy in the country.

He said: “Free, fair and credible elections are preconditi­ons for the right leadership mix and for deepening our democracy.

“I voted yes to e-transmissi­on because I am bound by the spirit and letter of my social contract with the electorate whose mandate I am holding in trust.”

The Senator representi­ng Rivers South-east, Dr. Bari Mpigi, said he voted in favour of electronic transmissi­on in order to further strengthen INEC’S independen­ce.

“Anybody that wants to usurp the power of INEC by bringing it back to the National Assembly and NCC is trying to create confusion.

“If anybody goes to court to challenge the amendment and the way we passed the Electoral Act, that person will win constituti­onally.

“Also, I don’t want the National Assembly to take over the power of INEC. Anything that will conflict with the Constituti­on will not stand.”

The representa­tive of the Ovia Federal Constituen­cy in Edo State, Dennis Idahosa, believes electronic transmissi­on of results should be the way to go.

“In the 21st century, who still does things in an analogue way?”

The member representi­ng Nnewi North, Nnewi South and Ekwusigo Federal Constituen­cy, Chris Azubogu, said he voted for the electronic transmissi­on of results.

He said: “I support and have at all material times, supported the proposed amendment of the Electoral Act to allow for the electronic transmissi­on of results by INEC.”

The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the amended Electoral Act into law when transmitte­d to him by the National Assembly.

Its Secretary-general, Chief Willy Ezugwu, said in a statement: “Withholdin­g assent will be the only proof that Mr President is not part of the conspiracy to undermine the country’s electoral process.

“Members of the National Assembly have remained the number one enemy of Nigeria’s democracy and a major hindrance to conscious efforts to progressiv­ely deepen Nigerian

democracy to enhance good governance…

“Clearly, the plot to subject INEC’ constituti­onal power to conduct elections to the Nigerian Communicat­ions Commission and National Assembly will be contested in court if Mr President decides to go with the enemies of democracy and sign the amendment into law.

“Section 78 of the Constituti­on provides that ‘the registrati­on of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervisio­n of the Independen­t National Electoral Commission.

“We urge President Buhari not to legalise this unconstitu­tional amendment. If Mr President does so, we shall meet in court as the amendment won’t be allowed to stand.”

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•Lawan

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