By Samuel Oyadongha
YENAGOA—DEPUTY Senate President, Dr Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, slammed Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over its decision to ban the use of smart phones at polling units, describing the move as unconstitutional and unacceptable.
Ekweremadu stated this during a condolence visit to Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State at his country home in Toru-Orua community in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state on the demise of his mother, Mrs. Goldcoast Dickson.
Ekweremadu in a statement by Dickson’s Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, said the ban would go against provisions of Nigerian constitution, which gave room for freedom of communication, expression as well as freedom of the press, noting that Nigerians are free to express themselves through the media and speeches.
He explained that the National Assembly was again working on the Electoral Act to pave the way for the announcement of result of elections at polling booths, stating that the ban would hamper the free flow of communication, which is necessary to have a free, fair and credible election.
He said: “Nigeria must take full advantage of technology as it could not afford to lag behind, especially in the bid to ensure citizens’ participation through recording of results and the electoral processes.
“On the issue of INEC’s ban on smartphones at polling booths, that is completely unconstitutional because we have provisions in the constitution that made room for freedom of communication, expression and even freedom of the Press. That is what this ban is trying to abridge.
“Nigerians are free to express themselves through the media and free speech. I believe that in this age of technology, we cannot be going backwards. So we need to take full advantage of the accomplishments of technology in our lives.
“We are amending the Electoral Act to make provision for the announcement of results at polling booths and if our people are unable to communicate, it makes no sense at all. We are hoping that we can accomplish a free, fair and credible election by the use of technology.”
Ekweremadu, who said he also brought a message of condolence from the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, on behalf of the Igbo nation, commended Dickson for his exceptional developmental strides in Bayelsa, describing the passing of Mrs. Goldcoast Dickson as shocking and painful but urged the governor to be consoled by the fact that his mother lived a fulfilled life and never lacked care from her children.
In his remark, Dickson thanked the Deputy Senate President for his thoughtfulness, brotherly concern and solidarity despite his busy schedule in the service of the nation.