AFRAID of losing the 2023 general elections, the All Progressives Congress (APC) senators voted against the wish of Nigerians on Thursday by rejecting electronic transfer of election results.
Fifty-two senators of the ruling party placed electronic transfer of results at the behest of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly – a move seen by lawyers as unconstitutional.
All eyes are now on the House of Representatives members who have the opportunity to re-write the APC senators’ faux pas and give the people their wish on Friday.
Most People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s senators voted in favour of transmitting election results without any interference in line with the wish of Nigerians.
There were contentions and disagreements by lawmakers on Thursday over a new amendment to Section 52(3) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill moved by the Senate Deputy Whip Sabi Abdullahi. The APC senators said the section should 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.”
The original copy of Section 52(3) of the Act had read that “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
Abdullahi’s motion, which was immediately adopted by lawmakers from the ruling APC), sharply divided the Senate along political lines, plunging the session into a rowdy one.
It immediately forced the Senate into a closed-door session as Senate President Ahmad Lawan could not bring the chamber back to order.
After the Senate ended its closed-door session, Senate Minority Leader Enyinaya Abaribe called for a division, challenging the Senate President’s ruling on clause 52(3) on electronic transmission.
He said he wanted Nigerians to know who was voting for what.
At the end of voting, 28 senators, mostly from the opposition PDP, voted for the original amendment in the report, while 52 senators from the APC voted for the amendment proposed by Senator Sabi Abdullahi.
This means the majority of Senators voted that Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) might consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage was adjudged to be adequate and secure by NCC and approved by the National Assembly.
Lawyer and human rights activist Abdul Mahmud said the priviso of Section 52(3) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, “Before INEC can transmit electronically, NCC must adjudge national coverage is adequate and secure, and National Assembly must approve,” was in conflict with Section 78 of the 1999 Constitution, which provided that “the registration of voters and conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of INEC.”
Many APC senators argued that due to low broadband penetration in Nigeria, electronic transfer of results might produce controversial results.
However, INEC has argued that it has the capacity to transmit elections electronically, having done so in Edo and Ondo elections already.
Many Nigerians have argued that if the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exam (UTME), bank transactions, and National Identification Number (NIN) were done online, why should APC senators stand against electronic results transfer.
Many Nigerians say the senators and the APC, having performed poorly in the last six years, area afraid of losing the 2023 election.
“We know why this is happening. They are afraid of losing power in 2023. Power is sweet, isn’t it?” Head of Anambra Voters Forum Frank Umeh said.
A Twitter user @tobennaOGB said, “We are gradually getting there with the deliberate loophole they have created in the law.”
“Remember, 2015 card reader compliance was 50+%,while 2019 dropped abysmally to to 19+%,” the Twitter user added.