ELECTORAL ACT HARMONIZATION: Opposition to NASS grows as anti-electronic transmission senators dominate Committee

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By Dayo Johnson, Henry Umoru, Shina Abubakar, Nnamdi Ojiego and Yinka Ajayi

Opposition to strikes by the National Assembly (NASS) to offer for conditional digital transmission of election outcomes is rising because the Senate and the House of Representatives put together to harmonize their variations on the modification to the Electoral Act.

A former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, is amongst these warning in opposition to the strikes.

Two high officers of Afenifere, the Yoruba notable group, additionally insisted on the weekend that digital transmission of outcomes is the one option to cease fraud throughout elections.

Whereas the National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Abagun Kole Omololu, stated digital transmission will get rid of election rigging or at the very least cut back it to the barest minimal, the group’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, stated there had been no cogent purpose to controvert the place of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which argued that digital transmission of election ends in Nigeria is feasible.

On his half, the Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, stated any try and cease digital transmission of election outcomes can be a form of combat in opposition to democracy which is not going to go effectively with Nigerians.

The two chambers of the NASS had, in July, whereas voting on the modification to the Electoral Act, offered for conditional digital transmission of election outcomes by INEC.

While the Senate empowered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to find out using digital transmission of election outcomes, the House of Reps, on its half, gave INEC the discretion to determine ‘where applicable’ to make use of handbook or e-transmission of election outcomes.

The determination has been a topic of public debate with many saying that by subjecting the transmission to the approval of the NCC, the lawmakers have been hindering INEC’s independence and transparency of polls.

INEC insists

But INEC insisted it has the capability to transmit election outcomes electronically.

“That is absolutely unconstitutional. You cannot ask INEC to seek the approval of another agency of government to transmit results electronically when actually INEC has power to impose duties on NCC to achieve electronic transmission of results”, Okechukwu Ibeanu, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Electoral Operations and Logistic Committee, stated.

“I completely agree that in the context of underscoring the independence of the Commission, Section 160 of the Constitution has done everything it needs to do. What is left is for INEC to use the power it has under the Constitution to achieve its aim”.

Harmonization

Senate and the House of Representatives, final week, arrange a 14-man committee (seven lawmakers on either side) to harmonize the variations within the invoice.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, whereas asserting the Committee members, stated it might be chaired by Hon. Akeem Adeyemi (APC, Oyo), whereas Hon. James Faleke (APC, Lagos), Hon. Chris Azubogu (PDP, Anambra), Hon. Blessing Onuh (APC, Benue), Hon. Aisha Dukku (APC, Gombe), Hon. Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa Ibom), and Hon. Ahmad Abdullahi Kalambaina (APC, Sokoto) are members.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, on his half, stated the Senate Conference Committee will work with its House of Representatives counterpart to be able to be on the identical web page on digital transmission of ballot outcomes by INEC.

According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North is the chief of the staff.

Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to characterize North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South-East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South-West and  Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo-South.

Of the seven members of the Senate Committee, solely Urhoghide voted YES for digital transmission of election outcomes. Ekwunife was absent throughout the voting whereas the opposite 5 members, who’re of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, voted NO for digital transmission of election outcomes.

But forward of the harmonization of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill by the NASS Conference Committee, Ekweremadu, a former Deputy Senate President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator representing Enugu West, insisted that the one manner Nigeria might transfer ahead within the nation’s electoral reform is to permit digital transmission of election outcomes.

Speaking in an unique chat with Sunday Vanguard, Ekweremadu stated: “It (electronic transmission of election results) is the way to go if we want to make progress in our electoral reforms.

“I am hopeful that the National Assembly will adopt electronic voting and electronic transmission as part of the new Electoral Act. “We are lobbying accordingly to convince our colleagues on the benefits of electronic management of our elections.

“It will reduce rigging and thuggery by 80%.”

Asked on the potential of digital transmission of election outcomes being manipulated, he stated: “Criminals can manipulate any system anywhere.

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“But the margin of the credibility of elections will be high with electronic management. Thugs will be completely eliminated and results will come in real time”.

Status quo

Afenifere National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Omololu, additionally contributing, informed Sunday Vanguard, “It is unfortunate that the lawmakers in the National Assembly are standing against electronic transmission of results just on the whims of members’ desire to maintain the status quo of electoral malpractices.

“The major operational entities involved in the electoral process have come out to fault the stance of the lawmakers, insisting that the capacity for electronic transmission of elections is not to be doubted.

“The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission have, at different times, countered the legislators on the matter.

“It therefore breeds serious suspicion, the intention of the lawmakers in trying to truncate the inclusion of electronic transmission in the electoral law.

“This smirks of mischief and underhanded way to undermine the integrity of elections in times to come.

“The received wisdom is that electronic transmission will eliminate rigging or at least reduce it to the barest minimum.

“It will be a practical demonstration of the forward movement of our electoral process which we have tinkered with in the past 22 years, if we adopt electoral transmission of election results, moving forward.

“We must not be unmindful of the fact that the 2019 presidential election results were, indeed, transmitted to the server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“It (server) was expressly dismantled, and thereafter denied, when legal proceedings commenced in the aftermath of the election.

“We can recall the repeated assaults on the Abuja headquarters of the African Independent Television (AIT) by security operatives at the height of that election.

“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) established a Situation Room at the location from where it filtered goings-on and results from every polling booth in the country.

“This precedent is the evidence that Nigeria does have the capacity for electronic transmission of election results.

“We must not forget as well that the Situation Room established by the PDP in Edo State during the 2020 governorship election made falsification of election results foolproof.

“No one is forgetting the fact that blank spots are in places, but, with the multiplicity of mobile service providers in the country, we can reach our people in the hinterlands.

“It is time we got it right by embracing electronic and real time transmission of results as is done in advanced economies.

“We have the capacity and resources to make it happen; hence it will be a coup against voters and the nation if the lawmakers succeed in this ignoble act”.

Kaduna instance

The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Ajayi, stated “it is comforting that the National Assembly is now trying to right what was clearly a wrong step earlier taken.

According to him, INEC has always expressed its readiness and capability to conduct elections and transmit results electronically.

“There has been no cogent reason to controvert this position of the electoral umpire”, he said.

“As a matter of fact, had INEC stated that it would be unable to do so, it would have been incumbent on us, including the National Assembly, to identify what the obstacles could be and tackle them, because transmission of election results electronically will go a long way in reducing election malpractices considerably.

“It is also in tandem with the international best practices.

“As luck would have it, INEC said it is capable and ready to do it. We should encourage and cooperate with it.

“Incidentally, Kaduna State government that was not even as equipped as INEC successfully used the electronic means when it conducted local government elections last month”.

On his half, YCE Secretary, Olajide, requested the NASS Conference Committee to harmonize the Section regarding digital transmission of election ends in the curiosity of Nigerians and democracy.

“It will be a shame to Nigerians that registration of voters can be done electronically while some people are saying election results can’t be transmitted same way”, he stated.

“It will also be a sort of fight against democracy and they know it will not augur well with Nigerians.

“I appeal and advise them to harmonize their position in a way that election results can be transmitted electronically in the general interest of the country”.

Situation Room/Jonathan

Early final week, The Situation Room, a coalition of over 70 CSOs, had spoken in assist of credible and clear elections, urging the harmonization committee of NASS on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill to just accept the model of the Bill that may permit INEC transmit election outcomes electronically.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan additionally added his voice to the raging debate final Wednesday, insisting that digital voting was the best way to go.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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ELECTORAL ACT HARMONIZATION: Opposition to NASS grows as anti-electronic transmission senators dominate Committee

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