…Says Overriding Interest of Nigeria, Electorate Guided Action …We Have Capacity to Transmit Election Results…INEC …It’s Unconstitutional to Subject INEC Powers to NCC, National Assembly…Tambuwal Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan has explained that the upper chamber overwhelmingly voted against the electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 because of the overriding
…Says Overriding Interest of Nigeria, Electorate Guided Action
…We Have Capacity to Transmit Election Results…INEC
…It’s Unconstitutional to Subject INEC Powers to NCC, National Assembly…Tambuwal
Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan has explained that the upper chamber overwhelmingly voted against the electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 because of the overriding interest of Nigeria and the electorate.
The Senate on Thursday, while considering the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, voted that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly be given exclusive powers to determine the use of electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“The Commission (INEC) may consider electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly,” the section reads.
However, both the Senate and the House of Representatives which endorsed electronic transmission of election results by INEC as soon as practicable, have attracted the ire of many Nigerians including the country’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who have accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers of trying to ‘murder democracy’.
Reacting, Lawan stated that the Senate did what it is in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.
According to the Senate President, election results from about half of the Nigerian voters may not count if the electronic transmission of results is passed into law.
He further said that Nigeria hasn’t gotten to the stage where electronic transmission of results can be used as many polling units across the country are without internet coverage.
Speaking while addressing a press conference during a constituency visit to his Yobe North Senatorial District, and made available in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr Ola Awoniyi, the Senate President said,
“I’m happy that we have been able to pass the amendment even though some people are complaining of what we have passed in the Senate and probably what the House of Representatives has also passed.
“When the majority of Senators voted against immediate application or deployment of electronic transmission of results from the polling units, to the ward, to the local government, states and federal, they didn’t say they do not believe in electronic transmission (of election results).
“All of us in the Senate, 109 of us, believe that at one point, our electoral process must deploy electronic transmission so that it eases and enhances the electoral process and give it more credibility and integrity.
“But you see, when you have not reached that stage where you could deploy the electronic transmission from every part of the country, then you have to be very careful. And no matter what anybody may say, you cannot have about 50 percent of Nigerian voters not participating or not getting their votes counted in elections and say it doesn’t matter, that we have to start the electronic transmission.
“We know the evils of not transmitting results electronically but compare the evils of electronically transmitting just half of the electoral votes from Nigerians and say you have elected a President with 50 percent only.
“And others have voted but their results or their votes could not be electronically transmitted. This is disenfranchising Nigerians and we are not going to support this kind of thing because essentially, we are supposed to be fair to every part of Nigeria and when we voted, every part of Nigeria voted for and against(the amendment).
“What I mean here is that, you have Senators from northern part of Nigeria who voted for electronic transmission. Maybe that is their belief or their environment is ready for electronic transmission. And you have Senators from southern part of Nigeria who voted against the immediate deployment of electronic transmission but they support that the electronic transmission of results should be allowed after certain conditions are met and the conditions are simple: The National Communication Commission had provided the technical information that only NCC could give – that only about 50 percent of the Nigerian environment, the polling units, in the country could possibly have their results electronically transmitted.
“So what happens to the other 50 percent. So we believe that all of us in the Senate were aiming at the same target but chose to go through different routes and that is why in my concluded remarks in the Senate after the debate and voting, I said there was no Victor, no Vanquish because we all meant well.
“And for those Nigerians who still feel that the electronic transmission should have just been allowed to take effect, I said well, this is how democracy works. Democracy is to allow those minority views to be expressed and democracy provides that the majority views will always prevail.”
The Senate President frowned at some media reports that insinuated that only the APC Senators voted against the immediate application of the electronic transmission of results.
He said the votes cast on either side of the subject matter cut across party lines and regional divides.
“In this respect, it was not just APC. I have seen it reported in the media that only APC Senators voted against the immediate deployment of electronic transmission.
“There are PDP Senators who voted against that but it appears that some people want to target at APC Senators. There were PDP Senators who voted against immediate deployment. I’m using the word ‘immediate’ with an emphasis.
“Nobody said don’t use electronic transmission at all. You use it when we reach there and only NCC can give you information. That is the main reason why, in the Senate version, clause 52(3), there is that provision to contact the NCC because INEC will not know until they go to NCC.
“So NCC will be the only institution to give that information because they are competent and it’s within their jurisdiction. And we say the National Assembly should approve of it.
“It is not when they want to do transmission that they will have to go to National Assembly that we want to do transmission. No. That once NCC has told INEC is now ready. INEC should come to the National Assembly with the NCC and say we are now ready.
“There is no way any National Assembly, not even this Ninth National Assembly will deny INEC the use of electronic transmission as part of our electoral process when we are ready for it,” Lawan said.
But the INEC has said it has the capacity to transmit election results electronically from all parts of the country.
NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Mr. Adeleke Adewolu who appeared before the House of Representatives had raised concerns over the transmission of results electronically, stating that no system can guarantee a 100 per cent shield from hacking.
Also, the NCC Commissioner of Technical, Mr Ubale Maska, told the lower house that about 49% of polling units in Nigeria are without a network by the NCC. Maska further added that 40% are with 2G while about 10% are without network at all, adding that only 3G and above can transmit results.
Reacting to INEC’s readiness to roll out on this issue, its National Commissioner and Chairman, Committee on Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye who spoke on Channels Television, stated that the Commission has the capacity to transmit results electronically even from remote areas of the country.
Okoye stated that the Commission had successfully transmitted results from remote areas in the past elections. He, however, said that the Commission will perform its duties within the ambit of the law and constitution.
In his words, “We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access.
“So, we’ve made our own position very clear, that we have the capacity and we’ve the will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process.
“But our powers are given by the constitution and the law, and we’ll continue to remain within the ambit and confines of the power granted to the Commission by the constitution and the law.”
Former Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has however strongly faulted as “patently unconstitutional” the decision of the Nigerian Senate to subject the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the use of electronic transmission of election results, to the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly.
While passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on Thursday, the Senators voted that INEC may consider electronic transmission of election results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be “adequate and secure”by NCC and approved by the National Assembly.
This conditional approval to electronic transmission of electoral results has irked Tambuwal, now Sokoto State Governor, who says this decision “is patently unconstitutional”.
According to him, “For the avoidance of doubt, S.78 of the Constitution provides that “The Registration of voters and the CONDUCT of elections shall be SUBJECT to the DIRECTION and SUPERVISION of Independent National Electoral Commission”. In Third Schedule, Part 1,F, S.15: INEC has power to ORGANISE, UNDERTAKE and SUPERVISE all elections. The Constitution further provides that INEC OPERATIONS SHALL NOT be subject to the direction OF ANYBODY or AUTHORITY.”
Senators had on Thursday voted publicly along party lines over section 52(3) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which deals with electronic transmission of poll results.
At the end of voting, 28 Senators mostly from the People’s Democratic Party, PDP voted for the original amendment in the report while 52 Senators mostly from the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, including the Chairman of the Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters, Senator Kabiru Gaya, voted for the amendment as proposed by Senator Sabi Abdullahi. The issue had earlier stirred the hornet nests within the upper house with senators mostly from the PDP calling for a division over the matter.
But in a press release titled, “ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF VOTES: SENATE DECISION IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL,” Tambuwal argues that, “Unquestionably, the mode of election and transmission are critical parts of the CONDUCT, SUPERVISION, UNDERTAKING and ORGANISATION of elections in Nigeria. Of course the National Assembly has power to flesh out the legal framework but that has to be consistent with the Constitution.
“These constitutional powers have been solely and EXCLUSIVELY PRESCRIBED BY THE CONSTITUTION to INEC, and CANNOT BE SHARED WITH the NCC, or any other Authority, and certainly not a body unknown to the Constitution.
“The Senate decision to subject INEC’s constitutional power to conduct elections to NCC is consequently patently VOID, unconstitutional and unlawful.”
Continuing further, the former Speaker assserts: “We had earlier counselled that that the mode of conducting elections and in particular the transmission of votes be left with INEC who would monitor developments and determine at every election the type of technology to be deployed to ensure free, fair and credible elections. INEC also has constitutional power backed by the Electoral Act to make rules and guidelines to ensure that every vote is counted and that every vote counts.
“If INEC determines that in any part of the country, electronic transmission is not possible, it would by regulations determine the appropriate thing to do.”
Counseling that, “the best option is to leave this matter in the hands of INEC,” Tambuwal quips: “We admonish INEC to be solely guided by the National interest and the desire of all Nigerians for a credible, free and fair elections in using its constitutional powers and in the deployment of error free technology.”