By Dapo Akinrefon
National Publicity Secretary of pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi, has said the decision of the National Assembly, NASS, on electronic transmission of result is capable of foreclosing prospects of free and fair elections.
Afenifere’s stance came on the heels of the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021, by both the Senate and the House of Representatives in which they rejected electronic transmission of election results.
The lawmakers rejected Clause 52 (2) and (3) of the Bill which provided for electronic transfer of election results.
The two chambers had, on Thursday and Friday respectively, passed the amended Bill amidst a rancorous atmosphere after a disagreement over the clause.
Ajayi said: “Our legislators, especially at that top echelon, ought to be exemplary, forward-looking and in tandem with international best practices. Digitalising electoral processes including the transmission of election results electronically and instantaneously are the norms in countries that want the wishes of the people to be truly reflected in election results.
“If proper attention is paid to the wordings of the particular section dealing with this issue, the insincerity on the part of our Senators would be apparent.
“The wordings of the draft presented by the House Committee on INEC vest the decision on the transmission of election results in INEC. But in the amended version that was later passed, the Upper Chamber said INEC may consider the electronic transmission of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communication Commission and approved by the National Assembly.
“The first question to ask here is: Who exactly is in charge of elections between the three institutions, INEC, NCC and the National Assembly? The original version says:
“The commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.
“To me, both versions are saying the same thing viz; electronic transmission of elections results to be done ‘where and when practicable.’ Thus, the major difference between the two versions was the predication of INEC using electronic means to transmit election results on endorsement by the NCC and approval of the National Assembly.
To all intent and purposes, members of the National Assembly, at any point in time, would be interested parties in the elections. How should they be the ones to approve whether or not INEC should use electronic means to transmit election results? Why is independence attached to the name of the electoral body if its activities have to be approved by external bodies? The antics of our politicians never cease to amaze one.
“It is a shame that in this age, our leaders would not be committed to taking us to the 21st century as far as technology is concerned. Why should they keep saying that Nigeria is not ripe enough for digitalization of the electoral process? Why can’t they, as a government, ensure that whatever obstacle is removed?
“It should be noted the phrasing in both the draft and what they eventually passed was not a firm commitment to electronic transmission. But the version that was passed worsens the situation by bringing NCC and NASS into the bargain.
“By not being forthright on the transmission of election results, most Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have clearly shown that they are democrats only when they are favoured or when it suits them.
“Of the 109 members, 28 were absent when such an important decision was going to be taken. It was disgraceful.
“That the voting pattern, for and against, cut across party lines was further proof that when it comes to making decisions on important national issues, the driving force for most politicians would be ‘self’ rather than what would best serve the people.
“It was noteworthy, regrettably so, that former governors and those who were expected to know and behave better were among those who voted against a process that will make our elections more transparent and less susceptible to manipulations.
“With this decision of the Senate, it can be pitiably projected that clean balloting in Nigeria is not now.
“The conduct of the House of Representatives on the issue during their sitting was not impressive either. It was thought that the House Members would correct the ‘error’ made by Senators. As things are, it is hoped that there would be a rethink when the lawmakers return after the Sallah break.”