From Victor Osula, Abuja
President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmed Lawan has defended the position of upper chamber on its volte-face on electronic transmission of election results, a day after the Independent National Electoral Commission said it has the capacity to transmit election results nationwide in real time.
Lawan who was speaking to journalists at the weekend while on a constituency visit to his Yobe North senatorial district in Yobe Stat said Upper Chamber passed Electoral Bill 2021 in defence of about half of the Nigerian voters whose votes may not be counted with immediate deployment or application of electronic transmission of election result
Lawan 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.
“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 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(NCC) 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.”
Lawan faulted some media reports that insinuated that only the APC Senators voted against immediate application of the electronic transmission of results, saying,
“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.
He further said it was wrong to conclude that Senators who voted for electronic transmission with conditions did not like the results transmitted electronically.
“I want to take this opportunity to debunk that insinuation or outright castigation of Senators that voted against immediate deployment of electronic transmission that they don’t like electronic transmission. It is not true.
“Even though I didn’t vote. But I believe that what my colleagues did is binding on all of us in the Senate. 28 against 52…l believe that what we have done requires that the Senate and the House will each constitute a conference committee. What we call harmonisation for the two sides. When we harmonise, then we will send it to Mr President”, Lawan
Meanwhile, Mr Festus Okoye, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Commissioner in charge of Voter Education made the clarification on Saturday that the Commission has the capacity to transmit result real time from all parts of the country.
Speaking as a guest on Channel TV’s programme, Sunrise Daily Saturday morning Mr Okoye said that over the years INEC has successfully tested and ran different forms of technological and electronic additions to improve the integrity of the elections, even in a crisis plagued states like Borno.
He said INEC is ready and capable to ensure that it can transmit results and all that is required is the endorsement of the law to further make the process better..
Okoye said, “We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access,” he said.
“So, we have made our own position very clear, that we have the capacity and we have 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 will continue to remain within the ambit and confines of the power granted to the commission by the constitution and the law”, he said.
He appealed to the National Assembly not to write into the law any electronic device, instead, he wants INEC given powers to deploy any technological device for the betterment of the election.
Okoye said the results are not transmitted into one central portal, but segmentalized, stating further that INEC wants to bridge the gap between polling booths and collation centres.
He assured Nigerians that the Commission has passed the test and should habour no fear about the processes of INEC.
The INEC national commissioners said the debate should be about national interest and not personal interest and all INEC wants to do is to use technology to reduce human interference in elections.
Okoye’s position is coming barely two days after the Senate passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which requires the Independent National Electoral Commission to seek clearance from the Nigerian National Communication Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly before deploying electronic transmission of election results in any area.
Senators from the ruling APC, with two opposition PDP lawmakers who broke ranks with their party, at the consideration of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, voted 52 to 28 to amend clause 52 of the bill that would have empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit election results electronically during the 2023 general election.
Criticisms have trailed the remiss of the National Assembly, mainly from the governor of Sokoto State . Aminu Tambuwal, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; the pan-Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and some senior lawyers. But the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) endorsed the senators’ action.
The House of Representatives on Friday passed its own version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, amid a walkout staged by opposition members, with the controversial Clause 52(2) intact, adding that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “may transmit results of the election through electronic means where and when practicable”.