By Henry Ojelu
The Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law, NBA- SPIDEL, Dr. Monday Ubani, has lambasted members of the National Assembly who voted to allow the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, play a key role in the transmission of election results in the just-amended electoral bill.
Describing the action of the assembly members as legislative rascality, Ubani noted that Nigerians are disappointed that the 9th Assembly failed to leave up to their expectations of guaranteeing a process that would ensure the credibility of elections in the country.
He pointed out that the clause in the amended bill states that NCC must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure while the National Assembly must approve before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, can transmit election results is unconstitutional.
Ubani further stated that the action of the 52 Assembly members who voted to allow NCC and the legislative arm of government to play crucial roles in the electoral process, undermines the power of independence granted to INEC by the constitution.
He said: “What the National Assembly members did by passing a bill that clearly violates the constitution they swore to uphold is the biggest embarrassment of the century.
“It is more shocking and depressing to see those who claim to be lawyers among them running around all over the place to defend the absurd illegality.
“A cursory look at the provisions of the constitution will give each observer a clearer view of the sordid absurdity in the passage of the bill by the National Assembly on July 16.
“Section 78 of the 1999 constitution as Amended provides: ‘The registration of voters and conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’.
“The same constitution in the 3rd Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15 provides that: ‘INEC has the power to organise, undertake and supervise elections’.
“The constitution further provides that in carrying out the aforementioned responsibilities, ‘INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority’.
“I shudder to think that our legislators who are lawmakers have turned themselves into lawbreakers.”
Describing the development as a drawback, Ubani further said: “Prior to now, INEC without any legislative backing has successfully conducted elections with card readers and have transmitted results electronically in several constituencies in Nigeria without any of these.
“Alarmist drawbacks, being trumpeted by these backward-thinking legislators that voted for that provocative amendment; why are these sets of legislators in the 9th Assembly trying to set the hand of our clock backward? What has come over them?
“Nigerians insist and I join them in insisting that INEC be given a fair and less restrictive legal framework to carry out their constitutional duties of organising, undertaking, and supervising elections in Nigeria.
“The present manipulative treachery to keep us stranded as a nation in our electoral improvements will be resisted with our last strength and we have the final hope placed on the judiciary should these set of legislators persist in their doomed journey of interfering on our progressive electoral journey as a nation.
“Nigeria has two years to ensure 100 percent network coverage in the whole country. After all, the Nation is alleged to have voted over four billion naira recently to monitor Nigerians on social media platforms.
“I see no reason why we cannot vote more billions of naira for the development of our key telecommunication infrastructure that will restore our dignity as the biggest country in the African continent.”