…Says it’s a Victory for Democracy …Wants Harmonised Bill to Empower INEC to Deploy Other Technological Devises …Direct Primaries, Recipe for Chaos…Saraki A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations has strongly commended the Nigerian Senate for reconsidering its earlier decision to subject INEC’s powers to transmit election results electronically to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and
…Says it’s a Victory for Democracy
…Wants Harmonised Bill to Empower INEC to Deploy Other Technological Devises
…Direct Primaries, Recipe for Chaos…Saraki
A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations has strongly commended the Nigerian Senate for reconsidering its earlier decision to subject INEC’s powers to transmit election results electronically to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and approval by the National Assembly. It says this bold move, which is aimed at making our elections more transparent, is a victory for democracy.
The revised Clause 52 passed by the Senate now empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine the mode of voting and transmission of election results without recourse to any external consideration. The Senate also reviewed its position on Clause 42 by empowering INEC to deploy ‘electronic voting devices’ in addition to other voting devices for the conduct of the elections.
Other revisions included Clause 43 on ‘transfer’ of results by presiding
officers, and; Clause 87 adopting direct primaries as the only mode of primary elections by the political parties.
According to the coalition, “The Senate’s removal of the contentious clause on electronic transmission of election results which will promote more transparency in the collation of election results is a victory for democracy.
“It confirms and reinforces the value of citizens’ oversight on the electoral process. Undoubtedly, public access to election results in real-time will strengthen citizens’ oversight over the results collation process and minimise the electoral fraud.
“More importantly, it will reduce the susceptibility of election results to manipulation and fraud. Political Parties and Candidates can now present data from electronically transmitted results in Court to challenge the outcome of elections.
“While we commend the Senate for its decision, we call on the Conference Committee to, as a matter of urgency, conclude the process of “Harmonisation of the Bill” and ensure that the harmonised Bill empowers INEC to deploy other technological devices beyond the Smart Card
Reader for voter accreditation under Clause 49 in Electoral Bill 2021.
“Considering the proposed review in election timelines in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, we call on the National Assembly to ensure that the “Electoral Act Amendment Bill is transmitted to the President for assent before the end of October 2021,” the coalition noted
The statement was endorsed by The Albino Foundation (TAF), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), International Press Centre (IPC), Nigeria Women’s Trust Fund, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism and Yiaga Africa
The Senate on Tuesday made a U-turn on the recently-passed Electoral Amendment Bill, wherein it had earlier rejected plans by the INEC to transmit results of elections electronically.
The decision of the Senate followed the re-committal of some clauses of the Electoral Act 2010 to the Committee of the Whole.
In July, the Senate rejected its Committee’s report, which had approved electronic transmission of results by INEC. The House of Representatives, however, approved it.
In a face-saving move, the Senate, on Tuesday, said that after critical examination of the Bill by the Senate Committee on INEC, some fundamental issues which require fresh legislative action on clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87, were observed.
Desirous of the need to address the observations by the committee and make necessary amendments, and relying on Order 1(b) and 53(6) of the Senate Standing Order, accordingly resolves to rescind its decision on the affected clauses of the Bill as passed and re-commit same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage, Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi stated while moving the motion.
His motion was for the re-Committal of some Clauses of the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, 2021 (SB. 122) to the Committee of the Whole.
They are Clause 43, Clause 52, Clause 63, and Clause 87.
During a debate on the motion, some lawmakers disagreed with the provisions of some subsections in the affected clauses of the Act.
Thereafter, the Senate resolved into Committee of the Whole to consider the report Clause by Clause, after which the lawmakers reverted to plenary to report progress.
The lawmakers, in the Committee of the Whole and Plenary, considered and approved Clause 43 (as recommended), Clause 52 (as amended), Clause 63 (as recommended), and Clause 87 (as amended).
This led to the passage of the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, 2021 (SB. 122) after it was read the third time on the floor of the Senate chamber.
When signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, the amendments by the lawmakers will allow the INEC to determine the mode of election results transmission, among others.
The amendments to the Act according to Channels TV are highlighted below:
Clause 43: Ballot boxes and voting devices
Old: The Commission shall provide suitable boxes or any other voting device for the conduct of elections.
New: The Commission shall provide suitable boxes, electronic voting machine or any other voting device for the conduct of elections.
Old: The Polling Agents shall be entitled to be present at the distribution of the election materials and voting devices from the office to the polling booth.
New: The Polling Agents shall be entitled to be present at the distribution of the election materials, electronic voting machine and voting devices from the office to the polling booth.
Clause 52: Conduct of poll by open secret ballot
Old: Voting at an election under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting.
New: 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.
Subsection 3 was deleted while Subsection 4 was renumbered as Subsection 3.
Clause 63: Counting of votes and forms
Old: The Presiding officer shall transmit the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.
New: The Presiding officer shall transfer the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.
Clause 87: Nomination of candidates by parties.
Old: A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold direct or indirect primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which may be monitored by the Commission.
New: “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission”.
Subsections 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 were deleted, new Subsections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were inserted, while Subsections 8 and 9 were renumbered. The newly inserted subsections are:
Subsection 3: The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions by direct primaries shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party and given opportunity to have agents for the purpose of monitoring the primaries.
Subsection 4: The procedure adopted for the direct primaries shall be spelt out in a guideline to be issued by the political party and filed with the Commission at least 14 days before the primary election.
Subsection 5: A political party shall maintain register of its members and provide in the guideline for the conduct of the primaries that the register of its members shall be used for accreditation for the primaries.
Subsection 6: The Commission shall deploy personnel to monitor the primaries in all the centres where the direct primaries are held.
Subsection 7: Every aspirant cleared by the party to contest at the primary not later than fourteen days to the primary shall be entitled to a copy of the guideline for the conduct of the primaries in which he or she is participating.
Knock for Direct Primaries
However, former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, has at the weekend called on the National Assembly to save the country the crisis that will result from the proposal to make direct primaries compulsory for parties in choosing candidates for elections.
In a statement on Sunday, Saraki noted that the decision to include a provision in the proposed Electoral Act which makes it compulsory for parties to adopt direct primaries will only create a fresh problem while trying to solve one.
He said that many of the political parties lacked the necessary infrastructure to successfully conduct direct primaries at all levels and the attempt will lead to hundreds of litigations that may jeopardize the general election.
“I feel compelled to once again appeal to distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives on the proposed Electoral Act because I realise that while the focus of the general public has been on how to get the electronic transmission of results into the proposed law, another potential problem that may clog our electoral process is included in the Electoral Act is this provision on direct primaries.
“The two options on the table are to make direct primaries compulsory for all the parties or to leave it open for parties to decide. We should take the latter option.
“Let us leave each party to decide how it wants to source its candidates. The experience we have in the past shows that direct primary will lead to a crisis if forced on the parties.
“We saw how people sent from the national headquarters to conduct primary elections stayed in hotel rooms and conjured up figures which were announced as the result of direct primary elections.
“Even if the big parties have the funds and facilities to organise direct primaries nationwide, how about the smaller parties? Can the big parties also provide the facilities and election officials that will be present in all the polling units in the country, either simultaneously or in staggered primaries?
Verified Membership Register
“Do most of the parties have valid and verified membership registers and other logistics needed for the successful conduct of direct primaries?
“The direct primaries option will also put pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) whose officials must monitor all the primaries.
“The direct primaries provision may work for us in the future but not now that we are not prepared for it as the primaries may hold next June. That is just nine months from now.
“The time for adequate and necessary preparations towards direct primaries is even not there. There will be so many litigations arising from the process. Do we have the time to hold crisis-free primaries and not create booby-traps for the general elections?
“From my experience, this issue of direct primaries was raised in the Eighth National Assembly when we passed the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill.
“It has always reared its head as a fall-out of the internal dynamics in certain parties where legislators feel they have been short-changed in the congresses where state Governors seized the structure because they felt the process was neither transparent nor free and fair.
“The legislators may now see the process of passing the Electoral Act as a means to settle the scores. However, in the process that we have now, it is the country that will lose. It is our electoral process that will be undermined.
“My appeal goes to all members of the National Assembly. Please, do not let us take a position on critical issues based on partisan and personal consideration.
“Let us put Nigeria first and act in the best interest of our country. During our time in the National Assembly whenever we were confronted with issues like this, we just appealed and prevailed on members to put the nation first before any other consideration. I believe the same appeal should go to the present federal lawmakers.
“At this point, we also call on the leadership of the various parties to intervene and call all their stakeholders together to address the issues. The bulk of the responsibility to make the legislators do the right thing falls on the ruling party, the APC.
“It has the numbers to pass whatever bill the leadership desire in the National Assembly. The party should get its members to avoid including provisions in the proposed Electoral Act which may later become a major clog in the smooth conduct of our elections and the credibility of the electoral process,” Saraki said.