The Senate bowed to public expectation and interest by reversing itself on electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), its spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, said last night.
Both chambers of the National Assembly passed different version of the sections 43, 52, 63 and 87 of the Electoral Act of electronic transmission of results.
While the Senate version said INEC must obtain permission of Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly before deploying technology during elections, the House version permits the electoral agency to use its discretion.
Many Nigerians chided the Senate. INEC also said the version passed by the Senate would compromise its independence.
The INEC insisted it had the capacity to transmit election results across the country.
At plenary yesterday, the Senate examined the recommendations of the Conference Committee of both chambers which dumped the version of the amendment Act earlier passed by the Senate.
The Senate in plenary through voice vote okayed e-transmission of results by the electoral commission.
The Senate went further to endorse the proposal that INEC should be free to use electronic voting.
The Senate also approved an amendment, which provides that political parties would henceforth, use only the direct mode of primary to nominate candidates for elections.
The resolutions of the Senate followed a motion titled: “Motion for recommittal” sponsored by Senate Leader Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).
Shedding light on the decision, Senator Basiru said the conference committee looked at four sections of the proposed bill-43, 52, 63 and 87.
On Section 43, he said the committee allowed INEC to deploy electronic machines while the party agents are also at liberty to inspect the machines.
The senator said Section 52, which has to do with the transmission of results, raised two concerns.
The first concern, in his view, is the possibility of disenfranchising the electorate in areas where there are no networks.
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The second is the possibility of hacking the system.
However, the Senate spokesman pointed out that when the Act was reviewed, it was discovered that Section 63 of the bill passed in the two chambers had provided a clue.
Quoting a part of the section, Basiru said the implication is that election must be concluded and the result entered on the form at the polling booth.
He said: “The result must be counted and recorded on the form. Therefore, it is not automatic transmission. Results can only be transmitted after the conclusion of election. The result must be on the form before the transmission.
Basiru added that while the recourse to the NCC has been discarded, INEC can resort to the technological method of choice.
He said: “We use the word transfer, not transmit, after the recording of results at polling units.”
Basiru also shed light on the provisions on direct primaries, stressing that INEC now had a constitutional duty to vigorously monitor the primaries.
He said political parties are now mandated by the law to furnish the aspirants and the electoral commission with the guidelines and the party membership register.
The spokesman said the issue of armophorous membership will become a thing of the past.
He stressed: “Accreditation will be based on party register. Any aggrieved person can go to the Federal High Court to challenge any aspect.”
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike commended the National Assembly, saying the resolution of the National Assembly Joint Committee is a good development.
Wike, who spoke in Port Harcourt, said Nigeria should have gone beyond manual voting.
He said: “I think it is a good development for Nigeria and democracy. And I will urge them, the two Chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate, to abide by that recommendation by the Joint Committee of the two Chambers, because it is in their own interest.
“I commend the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives, all the principal officers and members who felt that they must listen to what is good for Nigeria and what is good for Nigerians.”
However, Wike said direct or indirect primaries should be the exclusive decision of political parties.
He maintained that it will be unfair for the National Assembly to prescribe for political parties how to conduct their primaries.
Spokesman of INEC chairman Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi said the electoral agency will await President Muhammadu Buhari assent before reacting to the Senate action.
National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA Victor Oye said electronic transmission of election results is best for democracy.
He said yesterday in Awka that the method would eliminate delays, ensure credibility and make it less cumbersome
Oye, said: “In a modern society, it is the right thing to do. It will enhance our democratic process
“Everything should be electronic; it makes it credible. It is a simple thing. Again, we have to ensure the system does not malfunction unnecessarily and prone to abuse
“The benefits are many, it will eliminate delays. It will ensure credibility in transmitting results. The other style was cumbersome and prone to malfunctioning”.
Former Deputy State President Ike Ekweremadu commended the Senate for reversing itself describing it as a huge victory for democracy.
Ekweremadu said the Senate’s action justified his assurances to Nigerians in July that hope was not lost for electronic transmission of 2023 election results, despite the initial setback.
In a statement by his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu said: “I want to specially commend the Senate for setting aside narrow partisan interests to correct the mistake of July 15, 2021 by reversing itself on the issue of electronic transmission of election results.”
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