By Prisca Sam-Duru
Following the vote against electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria by some members of the National Assembly, more stakeholders have joined in condemning the act, describing it as a ploy to scuttle the country’s democracy as well as action NASS members will live to regret.
Recall that members of the Senate and Federal House of Representatives, especially those of the majority All Progressives Congress (APC), last week, voted against electronic transmission of elections in the forthcoming General Elections in 2023, citing lack of network coverage in some parts of the country.
Not even the assurance from INEC through its National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, that it has capacity for e-transmission of results in remote areas, more so, it recently successfully conducted two off season governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, in which it transmitted election results electronically to the satisfaction of contestants, electorates and civil society organisations, could stop majority of the members of the 9th Assembly from voting against real-time transmission of results.
Consequent upon the development, opposition parties, and indeed, many Nigerians, have condemned the outcome of the vote, saying it was done to satisfy the selfish interest of those who are still prepared to undermine the country’s democracy.
The National Chairman of Young Progressive Party (YPP), Bishop Amakiri, during an interview with Channels Television’s current affairs programme, ‘Sunday Politics’, labelled NASS members who voted against the electronic transmission of election results by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as a group of individuals who are against deepening democratic ethos in the country.
Bishop Amakiri said it was a shame that NASS members chose politics over the interest of Nigerians by voting against democracy in the country. “It’s a shame to all of us including myself as politicians, but that’s not to say its irredeemable, no, the future is really bright once we can get progressive minds onboard … this thing is all about 2023 election. Some people think that the only game they know about winning election is rigging. The consequences of what is happening today in the national assembly, I think most of them don’t understand that there are people like us, people like me seated here, if my life will be taken or I go to jail, on this particular subject matter, I’m prepared for that, because I don’t think I’m ready to explain to my younger generation and my children that I was alive when all these shenanigans were taking place and I did not contribute my quota.
“YPP supports e-transmission of election results in Nigeria…If they no wan do wetin Nigerians want, Nigerians will show them the way”
Also, former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and a presidential candidate in the 2019 Presidential Election, Professor Kingsley Moghalu also criticized Nigeria’s Senate and Federal House of Representatives members, for voting against electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria. Moghalu who was at the same programme with Bishop Amakiri, stated categorically that the 9th Assembly members will live to regret voting against the transmission of election results in the 21st century Nigeria. “INEC should be allowed to do its job period! And, it is very clear that some people do not want it to do its job.
“I was Deputy Governor of Central Bank and I supervised the introduction of the Bank Verification Number where you now have reliable 40 million Nigerians with their data being able to undertake efficient payment transactions. We created the POS, and electronic banking. So every aspect of life in this country is moving digital, even in my village. And somebody in the National Assembly is telling me about no coverage there, coverage here, common, tell that to a two month old baby. It is not true that there is not enough network coverage in Nigeria hence INEC should not transmit election results electronically. Even in the United States of America (USA) that is technologically advanced, there is no network coverage in certain areas, if you are moving from one place to another, there are times you are out of network area. So what are they talking about?
“INEC has assured us that they have different alternative ways as backups to ensure a fair outcome for everybody in the country,…that assurance from the body that the country has given the mandate to see to it that our elections are credible should be enough. Nigerians are upset about this and I think we have not seen the end of the story.
“The problem is, Nigeria by this decision of the national assembly, is clear that what we have as democracy is government by politicians for politicians of politicians. They want this to be selections not elections and some people clearly want to continue to come back to power through rigging elections. It’s such a shame, this day will live in infamy, go and mark it down that this decision that the NASS has taken, the consequences of it will reverberate far into the future and they will find out when it’s too late, that they shot themselves in the foot”.
Muoghalu who declared earlier in a statement published by Daily Post, that “Electronic transmission of election results is a popular demand by Nigerians who are keen to see significant improvements in the country’s electoral processes and outcomes”, stressed that “To pass a law to deny the wish of the people is tantamount to a legislative coup by the National Assembly. This must be avoided”.
On what the Senate passed, he said;
“There is a massive contradiction because INEC is a body established by the constitution and it is given its powers and functions by the constitution. So, there is no law that if it contradicts the constitution that should be able to stand. The National Assembly may make laws but they should make laws consistent with the constitution. If the INEC is an independent electoral body, you cannot subject its work to the say so of another body of the government, in this case, the National Communications Commission (NCC) and, even more unbelievably, the National Assembly itself.
READ ALSO: Nigeria’s democracy without democrats
So, the National Assembly wants to be a referee in a match in which it is one side, a player because INEC oversees election results into the national Assembly. So for those results to take place, INEC has to go to National Assembly to certify that it can use electronic transmission of results. It is obviously not a reasonable situation. I do see a problem legally, constitutionally with this because, in this case the National Assembly is making itself a judge in its own court. So that’s one fundamental- the independence of institutions in our own country is being excavated by these contorting decisions. Now, practically speaking, INEC itself has told you, has told the whole country that it can transmit results electronically and they have given examples of what they’ve done and some people are telling us otherwise.
I foresee that except the harmonisation committee creates a clean bill that removes the conditions that the NCC and the National Assembly having to certify something before INEC can play its constitutional role, if that is not done, any legislation that carries this type of fundamental contradiction can be challenged up to the Supreme court and it should be challenged. And I believe the Supreme court ought to rule such a law unconstitutional.
APC Chieftain, Senator Ayo Arise in an interview with Arise TV on Tuesday edition of ‘The Morning Show’, described the NASS vote against e-transmission of results as a deeply troubling development. “It’s deeply troubling… it’s not unique to APC but I was hoping that my Party would look more into the future. Everybody has a right to vote anyway he desires but, this particular topic …for me there’s no way we can make a general improvement on the way our results are released.
“We know that naturally the only way a person who wants to perpetrate rigging is to ensure, that is carried out between the polling unit and maybe state or federal agents. The electronic transmission would have been the best for this country. If it is not done now it will still have to be done in the future”.