Senate Rejects Electronic Transmission of Election Results; As It Passes Electoral Bill

  • Empowers NCC, NASS to Use Discretion on Electronic Transmission
  • Reps Adjourn After Rowdy Session

THE Senate on Thursday rejected electronic transmission of election results when it passed the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The passage of the bill was followed by a rowdy session marked by prolonged altercation between the senators over electronic transmission of results by INEC as contained in Section 52(3) of the bill. The Section states that: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”

But the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, instead moved that the Section be amended to read: “The commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”

Following the sharp division, the Senate had to resort to physical voting where each lawmaker had to openly cast vote as opposed to voice vote, which is feared could be subjected to the preference of the presiding officer; upon the invocation of Senate Standing Order 73 by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe.

Out of the 109 senators, only 80 were present to cast their votes on electronic transmission of election results by INEC. When the votes were tallied, 28 voted in favour of electronic voting and transmission of election results, while 52 voted against, and 28 senators were absent.

The Senate however empowered the INEC to consider electronic transmission provided the Nigerian Communications Commission gives assurance on the adequacy and security of national network coverage and further approved by the National Assembly, a provision clearly encroaches on the powers of INEC on matters of election.

Interestingly, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya voted against the recommendation of made by the committee endorsing electronic transmission of results.

The bill, which is meant to repeal and re-enact the 2010 Electoral Act, also seeks to resolve issues regarding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters, electronic voting and electronic transmission of results from polling units.

Efforts to get the bill signed into law by the Saraki-led 8th National Assembly failed with President Buhari rejecting it three times.

It was first rejected in March 2018 where President Buhari said the proposed law would usurp the constitutional powers of INEC to decide on election matters, including fixing dates and election order.

Later in 2018, the president again rejected it citing “some drafting issues” that he said remained unaddressed following the prior revisions to the Bill. And in December 2018, when the bill was returned to him, the president said signing it into law with elections close by could “create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.”

Reps Adjourn After Rowdy Session

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives also on Thursday was forced to adjourn after a rowdy session following disagreement among the members over some sections of the same Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House, adjourned proceedings till Friday to continue with deliberations on the bill when proceedings became rowdy while it was considering sections of the bill at the Committee of the Whole statutorily chaired by Deputy Speaker, Hon Idris Wase.

When the committee resumed the clause by clause consideration of the report on the bill later in the day, disagreement broke out again over Section 52 (2) of the bill, which deals with the transmission of election results.

The Deputy Minority Leader, Hon Toby Okechuwkwu, had moved a motion for the amendment to the section that “transmission of results shall be done electronically.”

But Hon Wase moved a counter motion that those without network coverage would be disenfranchised. “I make bold to say that only less than 20 per cent of my constituency has network coverage.” The deputy whip, Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, seconded the motion.

When the motion was put to vote by Hon Wase, the “ayes” was loud, however, he ruled that the “nays” had it. This ruling therefore led to a rowdy session as members protested against it.

When the chamber became calm after the rowdy session, Hon Wase claimed that a lawmaker had insulted him. “We have legal rights to canvass issues and lobby each other. I take exception to those who came here to insult me. As parliamentarians, we should conduct ourselves in a language befitting of lawmakers. I am the chair of this committee by the grace of God with your support; no need to insult me. It will not do anyone any good. Anybody can review the audio for him/herself. What happens to our brothers in Maiduguri, Yobe where masts are down?” he said, and was once again interrupted by members of the House.

Following this, Hon James Faleke moved an amendment to the section to read: “election results may be transmitted both electronically and manually.”

Reacting to the motion, Hon Kingsley Chinda argued that there is a substantive motion yet to be ruled on and then moved that the House should be divided for voting.

The Speaker, Hon Gbajabiamila, speaking from the floor of the House, and in a bid to calm the tension, urged Hon Wase as Chairman, to accommodate as many amendments as possible. “Those who want electronic transmission cannot impose it on those who want manual, and those who want manual cannot impose it on those who want electronic voting,” the speaker said, stressing further that the chairman was yet to finally rule on the motion, adding that the amendment by Hon Faleke was consistent.

The majority leader, Hon Hassan Dogowa, said the speaker was wrong in his interpretation, that issues disposed off by the House cannot be revisited.

However, Hon Wale Raji seconded the amendment by Hon Faleke, and once again, in the voice vote, the “ayes” had it, but Hon Wase ruled that the “nays” had it. This ruling threw the House into a fresh pandemonium.

Following the rowdy session, Hon Wase reverted to plenary and attempted to report progress, claiming that section 52 was adopted at the Committee of the Whole. This further caused more commotion in the House with protests from members.

At this point, the speaker took over and adjourned sitting to 10am on Friday.


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