Following two days of acrimonious debate across Nigeria over the decision of the National Assembly on the amendment to the Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday sought to dispel insinuations about its ability to transmit election results electronically in 2023.

The commission said it has the capacity for electronic transmission of results from remote areas of the country.

“We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access,” INEC’s National Chairman and Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, said on Channels television.

“So, we have made our own position very clear, that we have the capacity and we have the will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process.”

But Okoye said INEC would be guided by the power granted it by the constitution and the law.

“Our powers are given by the constitution and the law, and we will continue to remain within the ambit and confines of the power granted to the commission by the constitution and the law,” he stressed.

The issue of electronic transmission of results had caused sharp divisions in both chambers of the National Assembly with members voting mainly along party lines.

On Thursday, the majority of Senators voted for an amendment o Section 52 proposed by the Deputy Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, that: “The commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”

A total of 52 senators voted in favour while 28 voted against. A total of 28 senators were absent during the voting process.

The House of Representatives followed on Friday by also ceding the prerogative to decide the mode of transmitting election result to INEC.

The House upheld the controversial Clause 52(2) which allows INEC to determine when, where and how voting and transmission of results will be done.

It stipulates thus: “Voting at an election and transmission of result under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission.”

Most members of the House from the opposition PDP had walked out after sensing the direction the pendulum was swinging.

Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu dissociated the PDP caucus from the decision.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the House was not against electronic transmission of result, but rather interested in ensuring that the vote of every Nigerian is protected.

He said contrary to insinuations in some quarters that legislators did not want electronic transmission of result, the lawmakers wanted a system that would make all votes count.

He said: “Based on the information from experts, it is not as easy as it sounds. We must get our electoral process right and when the right is right, we can come back and amend the law. We don’t want to disenfranchise anybody.

“We have consistently said that every vote must count. It is not about 10 or 20 per cent coverage or even 90 per cent. If one person’s vote is not counted it will defeat what we have said on this floor that every vote must count.”

He said there was a big difference between electronic voting and electronic transmission of result saying: “From my research, electronic voting does not even take place in any European country that I know of. Not in Germany, not in England, not in Spain, not in France or any part. In fact in Germany, they did a referendum on electronic voting and they voted against it.

“So, I don’t think that electronic voting is feasible right now. What we have been talking about is electronic transmission and from what we have been told today, we need to do more work so that everybody’s vote will be counted.”

Addressing the House earlier in the day, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services of the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), Engr. Ubale Maska, said only 50.3 per cent of the 119,0000 polling units in the country as at 2018 are covered by 2G and 3G network.

Maska, who stood in for the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Dambatta, said election results could only be transmitted by the 3G network which he said covers only 50 per cent of polling units in the country.

He explained that the result of their 2018 analysis of polling units across the country revealed that 49.7 per cent were yet to be have any form of network coverage.

Many Nigerians are not convinced that the National Assembly meant well for the country by its action.

NASS has murdered democracy, says Ozekhome

Human Rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) described the action of the federal legislators as laying the foundation for the rigging of the 2023 elections.

Ozekhome spoke in Abuja while delivering a special lecture at the 2021 graduation/prize giving ceremony of Pacesetters’ School Abuja owned by Edo state – born politician and educationist, Kenneth Imansuangbon.

Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, and a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, were special guests of honour.

According to Ozekhome, the federal lawmakers have pulled Nigeria back to the stone-age with the rejection of electronic voting.

Ozekhome said: “Did you see the national tragedy in the last two days in the National Assembly where Nigerians are against electronic voting; wanting us to stay back in the stone age, so that they can rig elections?

“The ballot papers are meant to be put there for your preference; it is meant to be counted and it is meant to count. Where you do not allow it to count, then you are not having a government of the people. You are having a government of the few by the few and of the few.

“Why do we choose to kill electronic voting when across the world, even Democratic Republic of Congo here and Zambia are using it? You are even now making INEC to no longer be independent. Why are we killing this country? Why are we on a journey of no destination?”

NASS got it wrong, says Sani

A former senator, Shehu Sani, said: “The National Assembly is made up of politicians and elected public officials. It is wrong for us to have a law where they would be involved in deciding or approving whether election results should be released or not.

“All they have done simply is that the ruling political party with dominance in the National Assembly will decide whether results should be electronically announced or not.

“Another point we need to observe is that during elections, most of the lawmakers are back to their constituencies and it is not possible at that time to have a quorum in the national assembly for the purpose of approving whether election results.

“All they are trying to do is simply to give the ruling party the opportunity to decide whether the result of election is released or not.”

He spoke in a radio interview in Osogbo.

Omo-Agege did not vote against electronic transmission of results, says aide

Prince Efe Duku, Special Adviser on Legislative and Plenary Matters to Senate Deputy President Ovie Omo-Agege, yesterday denied that his principal voted against electronic transmission of election results.

Duku in a statement in Abuja said the Deputy Senate President voted to guarantee secure and uniform application of E-Transmission of results everywhere in the country.

He insisted that as a “chief architect of and resourceful actor in the ongoing electoral reform”, Omo-Agege supports Electronic Voting (E-Voting) as contained in Clause 52(2) of the Bill.

Duku said: “Further, the Distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege did not vote against E-Transmission of election results.

“Rather, the Deputy President of the Senate wisely and courageously voted for an amendment to Clause 52(3) of the Bill (on E-Transmission) to guarantee secure E-Transmission of all election results and uniform application of E-Transmission everywhere in the country, not just some parts of it.

“In simple terms, The Obarisi of Urhoboland voted to support an amendment that ensures, for example, that INEC does not transmit only election results in Urhobo electronically while other areas may have their results transmitted otherwise and safely.

“For him, all election results must be treated equally under a uniformly applied standard.

“Indeed, Senator Omo-Agege as an erudite lawyer knows that it is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to enact an Electoral Act that is inherently discriminatory in its design and intended application.

“For him, to pass the test of constitutional validity, the law must apply uniformly to all electoral domains in the country. Otherwise such a law could be easily struck down by a court if taken for judicial reviews by those who may be negatively impacted.

“Further, in arriving at his thoughtful decision, Senator Omo-Agege was guided by unimpeached data from the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) that E-Transmission of results is only possible in less than 50 per cent of all electoral domains in the country.

“For him, the message from this data is that if INEC is allowed unfettered E-Transmission power, then there will be unequal treatment of election results and that would be a fundamental lawmaking flaw.

“So he stood firm to prevent such a move that would have led to a needless waste of legislative resources and time.

“In view of the foregoing, we hereby confidently assure our people that all is well as far as the ongoing Electoral Reform is concerned.

“Senator Omo-Agege as a leading champion of the reform since he first stepped into the Red Chamber in the 8th Senate is protecting the best, strategic interest of our people and the nation.”

 

THE NATION

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