*Without ensuring electronic transmission of election results
*Adopts Senate’s 3% for host communities;
*Our lawmakers played disgraceful roles—Olanrewaju, ex communications minister;
*This will exacerbate grand corruption, impunity — SERAP;
*PDP plans court action
*Anger, protests, as Reps pass Electoral Bill, PIB
*Lawmakers’ action ‘ll take Nigeria back by 30 years—CSOs
By Dapo Akinrefon, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Dirisu Yakubu & Omeiza Ajayi
Anger and protests yesterday greeted the passage of both the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, and the Petroleum Industry Bill by the House of Representatives.
As Nigerians condemned the House for rejecting the electronic transmission of election results, opposition lawmakers in the House protested against their colleagues and walked out of the House saying whatever their colleagues did thereafter amounted to nullity.
Reacting to what he described as a show of shame by the lawmakers in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, former Communications Minister, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (retd), yesterday lampooned the lawmakers representing Lagos State for backing the manual transmission of votes during elections, describing them as selfish.
Olanrewaju, in his reaction to the passage of the Independent National Electoral Bill, described the lawmakers who voted in favour of manual transmission as self-centered and untidy.
He said: “It is rather disappointing and sad that the Lagos lawmakers in Abuja are increasingly self-centered, untidy and indifferent to the sole purpose of representing the interests of our people at the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“For whatever reason best known to them, they seem motivated by myopic partisan concerns rather than the pursuit of the welfare of the ordinary Lagosians who voted them into office.
“Of particular concern to us at ÌmÍ Eko Pataki is the disgraceful roles played by our Senators and Representatives during the passage of the Independent National Electoral Bill that would have mandated electronic voting system and the Petroleum Industry Bill whose original intent to benefit the indigenous oil producing communities is now basically negated and frittered.
“The lawmaking process should never be about personal gains or selfish absorption. It should always be about the greater good of the electorate. It should always be about the growth and the development of our society. Unfortunately, not so here. Frankly, it still beats reasoning and common sense why anyone will vote against electronic voting in the 21st century where the very dictates of cybernetic revolution have virtually eliminated all the cumbersome processes of manual procedures in all aspects of our lives from banking to statistical data gathering, from power generating grids to sensors in military hardware.
“As a former Minister of Communications, I should know. The increasing growth of digital technology has eased the challenges of modernity, making our society more progressive. Manual voting is primitive and outdated. It gives room to several manipulations and ultimately disenfranchises our people. This is unacceptable. We should be seen to be moving forward and not regressing.
“The same goes for the Petroleum Industry Bill. Lagos of course is now a petroleum producing state. The 5 percent proposed recommendation for the indigenous producing communities has been slashed to a pittance of 3 percent and yet Lagos legislators support this abnormality. Does this really make any sense at all? A lot is definitely wrong with the thought processes of our legislators. They are unrepresentative of the well being of Lagosians. They are motivated by personal bias and partisan prejudice.
“We at ÌmÍ Eko Pataki strongly believe that all the legislators who voted against the interests of our people are not democrats. Since they are at variance with the classical definition of democracy which is ‘the government of the people by the people and for the people’, they have no business staying a minute longer in their position because they have failed all Lagosians.”
NASS plans to undermine integrity of electoral process – SERAP
Similarly, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the passing of Electoral Amendment bill as “illegal and deleting ‘independence’ from INEC and seriously undermining the ability of the electoral body to conduct transparent elections.”
SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “Given the history of election violence and corruption over the years, in the country, opacity and a toxic culture of secrecy in elections would exacerbate electoral corruption, grand corruption and impunity.
“The refusal by the National Assembly to allow electronic transmission of election results shows a systemic failure of leadership at the highest level of government, and suggests that our electoral process is deliberately skewed in favour of politicians’ interests, who continue to profit from the corruption and impunity that have characterised the process since 1999, and against those of the citizens.
“This is a blatant attempt by politicians to take over the functions of the electoral commission and to undermine the integrity of the electoral process. This exercise of legislative powers is a fundamental breach of constitutional and international obligations, including on transparency and accountability, and has seriously undermined Nigerians’ right to participate in their own government.
“We will see in court if the bill is signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, to challenge this fundamental breach of public trust.”
PDP vows to challenge lawmakers’ decision in court
Also reacting, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, decried the voting pattern of the Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, following their rejection of the clause on electronic transmission of election results and has vowed to challenge the decision in court.
Addressing a press conference at the party’s secretariat, Abuja, national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus wondered how representatives of the people in parliament could turn their backs on the people in such a blatant manner by voting against their interest.
He said: “The PDP will take all necessary legal steps to ensure that this All Progressives Congress, APC, scam is not allowed to stand in any way. We call on all lovers of democracy who see free, fair and transparent election as vital, to stand up against this fraud.
“How a representative of the people enjoying their mandate blatantly turned their back on them and toed the line of a political party’s interest that is clearly against the people. By the choice of the All Progressives Congress, APC to put party interest before national interest, they have vividly murdered democracy by the actions of their members in the two chambers of the National Assembly Thursday and today. For us in PDP, today is a Black Friday for democracy. It’s an established fact in all democracies world wide that a free, fair and credible election is the tripod of any democracy. The action of APC in swaying their members against Electronic transmission of Election Results clearly undermines and shows in unmistaken terms that APC is not ready to face the Nigerian electorates”.
According to Secondus, the rejection of the clause which would have guaranteed electronic transmission of results shows that “the dilly-dallying of APC all the while in amending the Electoral Act is deliberate as they never wanted from inception to do anything that will deepen democracy in our country.”
APC senators has taken Nigeria back by 30 years—CSOs
A coalition of 45 Civil Society Organizations CSOs under the aegis of Coalition for Electoral Democracy has also berated senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC for taking Nigeria back by 30 years by their decision to block the electronic transmission of election results as advocated by the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC through the Electoral Act amendment Bill.
Convener of the coalition, Istifanus Mark told Saturday Vanguard in Abuja that the transmission of results electronically would have put paid to sinister plots by politicians who often attack collation centres and officials transferring election results to such centres
“What the APC senators have done will take Nigeria backwards by at least three decades. It was never a partisan matter, but that the ruling party could direct its senators to vote against what could have advanced our electoral democracy is devilish. It is a safe day for democracy and one cannot but be amazed that a party which rose to power on the slogan of change is now afraid of changing the status quo”, he stated.
Drama at the House of Reps
The drama that started on Thursday at the House of Representatives continued yesterday that culminated in the opposition lawmakers staging a walkout and later addressed a press conference. Recall that the exercise came to an abrupt halt on Thursday following a virulent division of the House occasioned by whether or not the electronic transmission of election results should be made mandatory by law. The argument that ensued amongst the unruly lawmakers on the matter later led to a free-for-all. Consequently, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila adjourned plenary to yesterday. He also announced the invitation of the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC, Professor Umoru Dambatta and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu to the House to brief it on the issue at stake.
The House, by convention, does not hold sessions on Friday but it became necessary due to its annual vacation that should have started on Thursday as no one had envisaged how it turned out that warranted the Friday, 10am session.
In a similar stance, the House on Thursday suspended the presentation and consideration of the Conference report on the controversial 3% equity shares approved by the Senate in the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB following protests that trailed the approval. It was not officially stated when next it would be considered and passed.
Friday Special Session
Before 10: 00am on Friday, the House had become animated and the chamber agog with members who were ready for the day. Minutes later, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila walked, highlighted the issues that transpired on Thursday and asked if the NCC chair was around.
“NCC is in a better position to educate us on the issue in order to help us make an informed decision. We want to know so that every vote must count. Is NCC here? Gbajabiamila asked.
By 10:51, the House suspended its rule and admitted the NCC team led by the Executive Commissioner Technical Services, Ubale Maska into the chamber. Gbajabiamila continued: “Once again, you are welcome to the House. We have with us the chairman of NCC.”
In his response, Maska said “I am representing the Vice Chairman who is away on assignment.”
“Are you the one that will be addressing the issue”, Gbajabiamila asked.
Maska said he needed to be briefed on what the issues were, as the commission only got an invite to appear before the House without the details of the issues. “Ok, we will set the ball rolling”, Gbajabiamila said
At exactly, 10: 57am, Maska and his team of four persons were put on oath by the Clerk of the House.
Then came the questions from the Chairman, House Committee on Telecommunication, Hon. Hakeem Adeyemi; Hon. Idi Unyim, Hon. Kingsley Chinda amongst other members.
The questions ranged from the capacity of the NCC to cover the elections electronically, creating a platform that will help to gather and upload results where there is no network, satellite coverage, Point of Sale, POS, network similarity, hacking threats amongst others.
Responding, Maska said that NCC could not achieve the coverage of over 119,000 polling units nationwide.
He said that the country was running on 2 to 3G network, adding that it would require 3G and above to achieve electronic voting and transmission of election results.
Speaking on the threats of hacking into the server, Maska said that “There is no system that is100% hacking free. You may try your best but…”. He argued that the POS network was different from the one expected to be used in the elections.