“I am not in support of electronic transmission of results. We are not ready. It is best if we are equipped and ready to secure the website that nobody can hack. If we say for 2023, we are going to transmit results electronically, is it possible? Everybody knows that it is only the person with the highest number of votes that will get it. So, results should be announced at the polling units and collation centres, where applicable. Let us not start what we cannot do.”
That was the position
proudly made public by a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic representing Bauchi South Senatorial District of Bauchi State.
As the agency that bears much of the difficulties and collateral consequences associated with manual collation and transmission of votes at elections, over the years, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had expressed preference for the adoption of electronic results by electronic means. Against this backdrop, Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had urged the National Assembly to amend the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 to allow for electronic collation and transmission of results; arguing that the manual method enshrined in the laws is too cumbersome and expensive.
“We have to also address our electoral process which is manual. It is too expensive and cumbersome. The process of collating results is sometimes chaotic because the law says that you must write results manually and collate them manually right from the polling unit to the ward, from the ward to the local government, then, the state and from the state to the national level, in the case of the presidential election. “A lot has been achieved in other climes with the simple application of technology. So, the encumbrances to the deployment of technology in the transmission of election results should be removed as part of this process”, the INEC boss said as part of his submission to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Last week, Nigerians’ expectation for the bill to be passed into law by the Senate was dashed as controversy arose amongst the lawmakers with the questionable appearance of a strange Section 50 (2) which completely outlaws transmission of votes by electronic means.
The contentious provision states that voting at an election under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedures determined by the commission, which may include electronic voting provided that the commission shall not transmit results of the election by electronic means.”
Of course, the report of the Senate Committee on INEC, led by Sen. Kabiru Gaya, which prepared the bill did not make it to plenary until last Wednesday as some members of the committee threatened to raise objection on the floor of the senate unless the offensive section was expunged and the version to be laid before the senate faithfully corresponds with what they collectively signed up to.
The question Nigerians have since been asking is, who is afraid of electronic transmission of election results and why? With admirable results already recorded on the electronic transmission of election results by INEC in some previous elections including the September, 2020 Edo State governorship election, Nigerians are wondering why anyone would hinder the full scale and unfettered application of appropriate and requisite technology in our electoral system, especially seeing that the electoral body itself has not indicated lack of capacity, inability or unwillingness to undertake the process.
Yet the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, is reported to have said that electronic voting and transmission of election results will not work in the northern part of the country come 2023.
“As a member of the Senate, I am talking realistically, the issue of electronic voting is futuristic, but not realistic for us in the north, particularly. Can you do electronic voting or transmission of results without electricity? The answer is no; he said. According to Senator Ndume, who represents Borno South Senatorial District, the adoption of electronic voting and transmission of results will render the electoral process vulnerable adding that while he was determined to stand against the electronic means, himself and his people were comfortable with the writing of results in hard copies.
“What they are trying to do is to make the election vulnerable. Supposing somebody drops a virus in the process, supposing somebody desfroys the collation centre or attacks the server, what will happen?”, he reasoned, insisting that the envisaged benefits of reduced tension, killing and election rigging were untenable, people rig election only where they are already popular.
“Infact, electronic voting is more susceptible to manipulation… So, we don’t want to get involved in that, particularly we, the northern senators, because we are the ones that don’t have the facilities or the infrastructure that is required to conduct electronic voting … So you are saying that we should go through electronic voting for what? Let’s go out and vote the way we have been voting before”, Senator Ndume insisted.
Reacting to questions on the subject matter, erstwhile INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega said, “once there is a robust software and hardware for doing so, it now brings efficiency, transparency and real time ability to see the result as they are transmitted from the polling unit to a National Collation Centre”, however adding that “there are so many challenges in our country. For one to be able to do effective, thorough electronic voting, you need the infrastructure, software and associated support infrastructure. For example, stability of electricity, extensive network coverage and robust internet facilities,” and advised Nigerians to “make haste slowly”.
Yet, individuals and stakeholder groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) have expressed the view that the process of collating results had been usually chaotic, vulnerable to manipulation, sometimes violently disrupted and needlessly shrouded, adding that it was to cure this that the electronic transmission of results got endorsement from a wide range of stakeholders, during the public hearings embarked upon by the National Assembly as part of the process to amend the Electoral Act.
“It will eliminate interference by security agents, politicians and even thugs in the collation process. There will not be reason to kidnap electoral officials and snatch ballot materials”, Director, CDD, Idayat Hassan, said, emphasising that, “In Nigerian elections, you can win during voting but lose during collation. Electronic transmission will take away the power of the Returning Officers to influence the election process”. According to Hassan, a paper format that will serve as a back up in the electronic transmission arrangement will take care of the probable incidences of a malfunction of criminal interference.
In his own reaction, Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere said those who were arguing against the inclusion of the provision of electronic transmission of results were those who haboured intentions to manipulate votes during elections.
“With election transmission, there will not be any case of results missing on the way or snatching of ballot boxes. Any politician that does not want that to happen is planning to rig election”, Auwal Rafsanjani said.
A report of the joint committee on INEC in the Senate and House of Representatives which was debated yesterday was verified to read” “Section 52 (1)” Voting at an election under this Bill shall be by open secret ballot.
“52 (2) voting at an election under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting.
“52 (3) The commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable”.
Whichever way the National Assembly chooses to swing, Nigerians just don’t want to continue with the system that threatens the lives, livelihoods, mandate and stability of the democratic system at every election season. This, they hope, will be achieved for me them through the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
By: Opaka Dokubo
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent 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.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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