By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze
THE growing demand for free, fair, credible and transparent elections in Nigeria suffered another set back as the National Assembly shut the door against e-transmisson of election results from polling units. The parliamentarians deliberately killed and buried a growing national aspiration with obnoxious technicalities.
Surprisingly, the same National Assembly approved the use of any other electronic means during elections as INEC deems fit but hinged the electronic transmission of results on the express approval by National Assembly and the Nigerian Communications Commission. Unbelievable!
In his view on the subject under review, the former INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega said; “the National Assembly’s decision to allow INEC to use electronic voting without the electronic transmission of results is counterproductive. You can’t permit INEC on one hand to use electronic voting and not use electronic transmission of results because usually, they go as a package. Once there is a robust software and hardware for doing so, it now brings efficiency, transparency and real-time ability to see the result as they are transmitted from the polling unit to a National Collation Centre.”
The will of the majority is abused or circumvented if and when policies and institutions established to drive credibility of elections are selfish, partisan, handicapped or outrightly ridiculous. In Nigeria, the need for free, fair and credible elections has been in the front burner of electoral reforms. The Electoral Reform Act of 2010 was borne out of a genuine desire to advance and address this course.
But the amendment of Clause 52 (2) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which seeks to adopt electronic transmission of election results in the Senate and House Committees on INEC was roundly rejected. On the clause-by-clause consideration of the report, selfish, partisan and regional interests prevailed over national interest. Both chambers came up with a surprise package. A self-serving package not reflective of the wishes and desires of Nigerians.
While 52 out of 88 senators at the plenary voted against e-transmission of election results, 28 said yes. Incidentally, all the 52 senators who voted against the proposed amendment are all members of the All Progressive Congress, APC. One sore reminder of the disingenuous nature of politicians was that the chairman Senate Committee on INEC, Kabir Gaya voted against the recommendation of his own committee.
One had envisaged that the APC will take a detour from the old normal by bequeathing a legacy of unprecedented electoral reforms before 2023. Instead they came up with a retrogressive clause which stands logic on its head and hands over power of determining how and when to transmit election results to the Nigerian Communications Commission and the National Assembly.
No Act of the National Assembly or any other piece of legislation for that matter is superior to the Constitution. Therefore, the powers of INEC as enshrined in third Schedule, Part 1(f) Section15 says: “INEC has power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation.” The Constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.”
In fact, INEC understood the letters of the law and the constitution as they relate to their responsibilities and shunned the invitation by the House of Representatives on the issue. This strange parliamentary enactment could possibly be applicable only in Nigeria. What this invariably means is that we now have three electoral bodies in Nigeria namely: INEC, NCC and NASS. The hallmark of democracy is deeply engraved in free, fair and credible elections. One vital element is the transparent nature of the process in arriving at the desired answers.
Election rigging which involves all sorts of desperate measures and manipulations in forms of ballot snatching, ballot stuffing, change of results at polling units or along the way to submission, intimidation of candidates using political thugs and conventional security agencies and even killing of innocent citizens are all good reasons to transmit the election results direct from polling units.
But the National Assembly and the election rigging elite they represent in their wisdom will not respect the wishes of the majority. It is now clear that politicians are the clog in the wheel of the progress of transparent elections in Nigeria. Most of them are bad products who win elections by other means. Therefore, voting in favour of e-transmission of results puts a lid on their profession and aspirations come 2023 and beyond.
Members of the National Assembly who stood against this change are anti-democracy and should be denied of any democratic opportunities in their life time. Their willingness to support the level of crass rigging and all forms of electoral malpractices which has characterised our electoral process since 1999 is clear.
Before the APC won election in 2015, they had brilliant ideas on all sorts of electoral reforms they had espoused. What stops APC from the implementation of these plans six years after beats one’s imagination. Anyway, every African opposition political party always come up with great and brilliant ideas.
But when they mount the saddle, the reverse becomes the case. The honest process in respecting the will of the majority in selecting who they prefer to lead them is what stands out in global elections. This will of the majority in selecting who they want to govern them is what makes any government democratic.
The conspiracy of the National Assembly against the Nigerian people was glaring. Imagine inviting the Nigerian Communications Commission to make a presentation on an issue right at the heart of elections which the House of Representatives will rely on in making decision.
It was hastily concluded without the input of INEC – the statutory electoral body. Nobody bothered to ask why the commission did not hounour NASS invitation. The absence of INEC sent an important message invalidating whatever NCC presented. As if that was not enough the NCC presented a 2018 report showing 43 per cent national network coverage. However, it has been established that as at 2021, the national network coverage stands at 74 per cent.
Good enough, INEC has repeatedly said they have the capacity to transmit elections results from polling units all over the nation. The belief that the nation is on its path to true democracy has been decimated by this self-serving action of NASS. For now this is the end of the road for electronic transmission of election results in Nigeria.
Only President Buhari has the power to revive the hope of a transparent electoral process by declining his assent on that piece of self-serving legislation which has complicated the electoral process and seeks to take the nation many years backward. The votes to stop e-transmission of elections results is a conspiracy against democracy.
Eze, a Media and Communication Specialist wrote via sunnyeze02 @yahoo.com