By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emma Una, Harris Emanuel, Chioma Onuegbu , Emem Idio and Ozioruva Aliu
Some Residents of South-South region have said that their Senators who voted against electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, do not deserve to represent them anymore in the Senate and should vacate the Red Chamber.
Citizens, who spoke with Saturday Vanguard, weekend, said the group of lawmakers were not on the side of the people and they have no reason tolerating them.
Former governor of Oyo and Taraba states during the military reign of late General Sani Abacha, Dr. Amen Oyakhire, said: “In a democracy, there is time for election and when that time comes, you consider them and throw them out of the place because they are supposed to act in the interest of the people they represent, so if we see them not representing our interest, in another election, we vote them away. That is the way to behave in a democracy.”
President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter), Barrister Iniruo Wills, screamed: “On the stone-age vote against electronic transmission of results, one wonders if it is a confession by most NASS members that they were not duly voted for. If not for the abysmal awareness amongst the electorate, the recall of some of them should have been initiated. But the political class has so weaponized mass poverty and apathy that I would not hold my breath.”
Lawmakers‘re demigods—Akene, ex-commissioner
Former Commissioner for Lands and Survey in Bayelsa and Chairman, Board of Trustees, BOT, Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development, CEPAD, Surveyor Furoebi Akene, said: “Poor representation by Niger Delta legislators both at the state and national is not new. Most of them operate as demigods. They do not communicate with their people to seek their input in anything, even those who indicated willingness to lend their expertise are always rebuffed. They do not take calls neither do they respond to text messages. They are there for themselves and their families; no thanks to our corrupt and incredible electoral system and godfatherism”
“The people cannot do anything except if there is a credible electoral system, then, they should be voted out and vote in credible people,” he added.
E-transmission will expose north —Alhaji Unagha, APC chieftain
An outspoken All Progressives Congress, APC, stalwart in Delta state, Alhaji Mumakai Unagha, said: “A section of the country has choked and still choking the country, disallowing its development with their British- imposed population. It is very ridiculous that they see any developmental plan as against them. We are still fooling ourselves in pretence that Nigeria is united. There is a very strong wide gap between the various components in the country between the South and the North which cannot be re-mediated.”
“The recent display in the National Assembly on the electronic-transmission of votes is evident, that we are only pretending. They are vehemently against electronic-transmission of votes because at the end, it will expose the population they are claiming to have. Yes, there are insecurity and mobile services disrupted, there is nowhere in the country where there is no communication or internet connection.
”What happened in the National Assembly, both in the upper and lower chambers, on the electronics transmission of votes is an indication that some person are not democrats, they are just playing to the gallery or to instruction of their pay masters that are always arm-twisting the country to their whims and caprices. Some of our senators from the South- South go cap in hand begging favour from their Northern counterparts. The northern agenda thereby overwhelmed them making them irrelevant.
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“They made themselves second- hand senators reducing their pride to nothing because they may seek re-election or lobby for juicy positions in the future because of their selfish interest. Both the petroleum industry bill and e-transmission of votes which they voted against, is an agenda of the north.
“They do not want its realization because they consider it a threat which representatives’ members keyed into in disguise of party interest. While the average northern senators and representatives stick to true representation, the ones in the south seems gallivanting carrying the brief cases of their Co- Northern Counterparts.
“They have forgotten that they will render account of services to their people. In any case, we are waiting for them, is obvious that we do not have confidence in them any longer. They have betrayed the Niger Delta and the South-South in particular. We the people of the Niger Delta cannot trust or rely on these self-representatives and senators any longer.
NASS should put e-transmission in the law- Gbemre
Activist, Zik Gbemre, took senators who voted against e-transmission to the cleaners, saying: ”It is not a question of what people should be done about senators who denied the nation a veritable room for credible elections, which is electronic transmission of results.”
”It is a matter of public rejection of the NASS imposition. People should come and speak about mass rejection of the Senate position. If they are elected to represent the people, they must not work against the people. The majority of Nigerians of voting age want electronic transmission. What the majority wants is what NASS should put in the law”.
Omo-Agege explains stand
Many of the senators from the South-South declined to explain their anti-people position, but Deputy Senate President, DSP, Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central senatorial district, strenuously tried to rationalize his position.
His media aide, Efe Duku, in a statement, said: “The distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege did not vote against E-Transmission of election results. Rather, the Deputy President of the Senate wisely and courageously voted for an amendment to Clause 52(3) of the Bill (on E-Transmission) to guarantee E-Transmission of all election results and uniform application of E-Transmission everywhere in the country, not just some parts of it.”
The statement read in part: “In simple terms, the Obarisi of Urhoboland voted to support an amendment that ensures, for example, that INEC does not transmit only election results in Urhobo electronically while other areas may have their results transmitted otherwise and safely. For him, all election results must be treated equally under a uniformly applied standard.
“Indeed, Senator Omo-Agege as an erudite lawyer knows that it is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to enact an Electoral Act that is inherently discriminatory in its design and intended application. For him, to pass the test of constitutional validity, the law must apply uniformly to all electoral domains in the country, otherwise such a law could be easily struck down by a court if taken for judicial reviews by those who may be negatively impacted.
Jalingo tears Senator Odey apart
Senator Stephen Odey, representing Northern senatorial district in Cross River state, who also voted against against electronic transmission of election results was not spared by one of his constituents, Agba Jalingo,
Jalingo, obviously angry with his senator, asked: “How did Stephen Odey arrive at his nay vote? When did he do the sampling or consultation or engagement to arrive at the nay vote? Was his nay vote for himself and his benefactor or was it for our senatorial district? Can Stephen Odey say in all honesty that his nay vote is a reflection of the wish of majority of the people of Cross River North, in relation to having more transparent elections in the future? Can he explain what benefit or impact his nay vote will have on the electoral process and fortunes of Cross River North? Or is it a case of godfather predation and electorate vulnerability?
“Stephen Odey has his name in the dishonor list as we will not forget the role he played at this critical time in our national history. No one who calls himself our senator, even if it is for one week, should again think that we will not keep records of their sojourn in office. We must not tolerate Stone Age leaders who are motivated by political considerations above development and progress and demand an explanation for how we missed this opportunity,” he said.
All 3 A’Ibom senators voted e-transmission — Senator Ekpeyong
Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Ekpenyong, representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district, confirmed to Vanguard that all the three Senators from the state voted in support of the electronic transmission of election results.
The two others are Senator Bassey Akpan, representing Uyo Senatorial district (Akwa Ibom North East) and Mrs. Akon Eyakenyi, representing Akwa Ibom South Senatorial district (Eket Senatorial district)
“We could not have voted against the e-transmission of results that will change positively our electoral processes, and enable INEC achieve free, fair and credible elections. All Senators from Akwa Ibom state voted in support of electronic voting, electronic transfer of results. I voted my conscience, because I was a product of transparent electoral process”, Ekpenyong said.
Anybody against e-transmission is not a Nigerian- Senator Mpigi
Senator Barry Mpigi, representing Rivers South East senatorial district in the National Assembly, told Saturday Vanguard that anyone who kicked against electronic transmission of election results does not mean well for the nation.
Like Mpigi, other serving Rivers Senators, all on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, aligned with the position of Government Nyesom Wike, who strongly demanded that President Mohammadu Buhari and National Assembly should ensure electronic transmission of election results prevails come 2023.
Mpigi asserted: “Whoever is trying to usurp takeover the powers of INEC is in conflict with the constitution. I stand by what we did on the Senate before the committee submitted its report when we said ‘where applicable’, but based on INEC’s directive because INEC is the only authority vested with handling election matters and not a matter of talking about NCC or any other body.
”Everybody Nigeria is saying there must be electronic transmission and I stand by electronic transmission. And for whatever that has been done, I continue to stand for electronic transmission because it’s only a credible election through transmission that Nigerians can count.
”It’s going to reduce a lot of things, the issue of ballots snatching, issue of thuggery, military interference and all of that, so anybody that is against electronic transmission is not a Nigerian,” he said.
West calls for restraint
Rights activist and public affairs commentator, Mr. David West, nevertheless, called for caution in taking action against the senators, saying: ”For instance, Chief Biobrakuma Degi-Eremiyon, representing the East Senatorial district, Bayelsa state, was said to have voted along his APC ‘party line’ against e-transmission
“Let us look at it from this angle, he belongs to a political party and maybe the party must have taken a decision to say this is the way we want to vote, if the party has taken a decision, he is bound to follow the decision of the party. So maybe he must have voted according to the party decision and they say party is supreme.
“However, as an individual, he is still at liberty to say, no I will not tow the decision of the party. It is a personal opinion thing but it concerns the people and whatsoever thing that concerns the people we must keep the party as the second stage and look at the collective interest of the people and after all it is the people that voted the party to be there.
If that is the case, I think Senator Degi voted in favour of his party, he is a politician and politician been what they are that is what they are known for. I will not criticize or hang him. Whether he voted for against it, the bottom line is the senate has said that INEC is at liberty, now it is left for us to say that they are ready,” he said.