The Senate on Tuesday said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was free to determine the mode of transmission of results during elections, including electronic transmission or manual transmission.
The decision is a reversal of its earlier position that INEC can only transmit election results electronically with explicit approval from the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly. The Senate also allowed political parties to determine the modality for holding primaries for aspirants to all elective positions. The amendments were made on Tuesday by the Senate to some clauses of the Electoral Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) bill 2021, passed on July 15, 2021. The chamber explained that the decision to subject the amended clauses of the bill to re-committal was reached after critical examination by the Senate Committee on INEC.
The chamber added that some fundamental issues which required fresh legislative action were observed by the Senator Kabiru Gaya-led Committee in the bill. Accordingly, the chamber in a motion for re-committal, re-amended certain aspects of the bill contained in Clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87, respectively. The upper chamber in Clause 52 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill passed almost three months ago, had approved that “the Commission (INEC) may consider the electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.” The Senate, however, on Tuesday amended the clause when the bill was subjected to re-committal to provide that, “subject to section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.”
The chamber also amended Clause 87 to allow political parties to determine the modality for holding primaries for aspirants to all elective positions. Members of the Conference Committee on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, are expected to meet with their counterparts in the House of Representatives to harmonise the two versions passed by both chambers. Reacting to the development, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar commended the resolution of the disagreement between the National Assembly and INEC on electronic transmission of election results. A press statement by the media office of the former Vice President on Tuesday, said that the harmonization of positions between the two institutions is an indication that Nigeria’s democracy is growing and getting stronger. Atiku also commended individuals and groups, particularly the various pro-democracy advocacy groups that participated in the public discourse on the controversial issue. He noted that “by this outcome, I am convinced that public institutions in Nigeria will continue to play their roles as guardians of public policy.
“The civil societies are the watchdogs of public policies and the institutions. Probably, we would not have come to this path without the active engagement of the civil society agents. This outcome should further encourage Nigerians and the civil society to do more in order to guarantee good governance in the country.” Also, a former Chairman of the InterParty Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, said the development would enhance political participation and the growth of political parties in the country. However, he observed that the electronic transmission of results had its challenges, but observed that the challenges should be properly handled to ensure its success and advised INEC to ensure that the staff charged with handling the electronic transmission did not play into the hands of politicians. On the approval by the Senate that political parties should adopt direct primaries for aspirants, Yunusa said that the important thing was that politicians should be properly engaged during elections to enable them know that it did not always pay to use the back door. Also, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has commended the National Assembly on its decision to allow INEC to determine the use of electronic voting and transfer of results.
The governor said the resolution of the National Assembly joint committee to allow the electoral umpire transmit election results electronically was a good development for Nigeria and democracy. “I think it is good news to hear that the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed for INEC to transmit results electronically. That is good news to hear. Like I have always said, what is important now is what people want. The moment you do what the people want, you’ll see happiness everywhere.” The governor, who has been a proponent of a transparent electoral system, observed that many nations had moved beyond manual result declaration and Nigeria could not afford in the 21st century to be left behind. “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 for their own interest.
“And 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.” Speaking further on the amendment of the Electoral Act, Wike stated that the issue of direct or indirect primaries should be the exclusive decision of the political parties in the country. He maintained that it would be unfair for the National Assembly to prescribe for political parties how to conduct their primaries. “A party could adopt a method, procedure in electing who represents it at various levels, that is not for the National Assembly to dictate that you must do it by direct or indirect method. That is not democracy. That should be an internal affair of the party.” Wike insisted that the National Assembly prescribing how political parties conduct their primaries is tantamount to interference in the internal politics of the parties. “The National Assembly should realise that doing that is interfering in the internal politics of the parties and that will not augur well.” The governor also faulted the bill sponsored by the Deputy Senate President seeking for the establishment of two Nigerian Law School campuses in each of the six geopolitical zone.
He stressed that the proposal was not in tandem with current reality, as the existing Nigerian Law School campuses were grossly underfunded. “The National Assembly has not been able to give them the money to fund the Law School, and you are saying they should establish two Law Schools in each zone.