*Senate bows to pressure, back-pedals on electronic transmission of results
*Adopts direct primaries for parties
*Ekweremadu hails Senate
*NASS can’t dictate to parties how to choose candidates — Wike
*It’s a welcome devt — INEC
*APC using its NASS majority to manipulate constitution in its favour – CUPP
*PDP chides Senate, APC over direct primaries
*APC keeps mum
By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Omeiza Ajayi, Dirisu Yakubu & Davies Iheamnachor
The Senate, yesterday, bowed to pressure from the public on electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as it has rescinded its earlier decision.
The U-turn by the Senate came after months of bashing from the public over its position that INEC could only transmit election results with the approval of telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
As part of moves to save its face over criticisms that it is against moves to ensure credible polls and deepen Nigeria’s democracy, the Senate deleted its controversial clause 52(3) of the 2021 Electoral Bill that subjected transmission of election results by INEC to NCC’s confirmation that there is adequate network and security of national network coverage.
The Senate also approved that political parties in Nigeria should adopt direct primaries to choose candidates for all elective positions and shall be monitored by the INEC.
With this development, the Senate has concurred with the House of Representatives through amendment of Section 87 of the bill.
It will be recalled that during consideration of report on 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment ) Bill 2021 submitted by its Committee on INEC, the Senate had in July amended clause 52(3) as recommended.
The clause as presented by the committee in the report stressed that INEC can transmit election results electronically where and when practicable.
The Senate had passed the amended version which says “INEC can transmit election results electronically subject to confirmation of Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, of adequacy and security of national network.”
The House of Representatives on its part, had adopted the clause as originally recommended by the committees of both chambers on INEC .
Since the Senate took that decision, it had been in the eye of the storm which apparently led to the U- turn by deleting its controversially amended clause.
Senate’s action was sequel to submissions by Leader of the Senate, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North) as listed on the Order Paper.
Amendments empowering INEC
Though the Senate Leader in his submissions listed clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87 for further legislative action, only 52 and 87 were amended, while the other two were adopted as earlier passed.
In jettisoning its former position, the Senate deleted outright Clause 52(3) it passed in July.
The clause states: “The Commission ( INEC) may consider electronic transmission of results provided that the National coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by NCC.”
The Clause 52(2) that replaced the former one read: “Subject to Section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by INEC.”
This provision empowers the electoral body to transmit election results electronically where and when practicable as earlier recommended by committees of both chambers on INEC in their separate reports.
The amendment effected on Section 87 of the bill reads: “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the commission.”
The new position was against the earlier one taken in July as contained in Section 87(1) which reads: “A Political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold direct or Indirect primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which may be monitored by the Commission.”
Abdullahi, in his lead debate, said that the amendment to Clause 87( 1) Nomination of candidates by parties, read, “A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.”
Abdullahi said: “Recalls that the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 (Repeal and re-enactment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Observes that after critical examination of the Bill by the Senate Committee on INEC, some fundamental issues which require fresh legislative action on the following clauses – 43, 52, 63, and 87 were observed.
“Desirous of the need to address the observation by the Committee and make necessary amendments; and “Relying on order 1(b) and 53(6) of Senate Standing Order.
“Accordingly resolves to: Rescind its decision on the affected Clauses of the Bill as passed and re-commit same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.”
Order 1(b) of the Senate Standing Orders reads: “In all cases not provided for hereinafter or by Sessional or other Orders or practice of the Senate shall by Resolution regulate its procedure.
Also, Order 53(6) of the Senate Standing Orders reads: “It shall be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion during the current session except upon a substantive motion for rescission.”
The approval followed an amendment to Clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) during the consideration of a report by the Senate Committee on the INEC.
Before adoption of the amendment, Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), Shaibu Lau (PDP, Taraba North), Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West ), kicked against it in their various submissions.
In his remarks after the amendments, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said the position taken on the two clauses represent Senate’s new position which the seven-member conference committee earlier set up should push through when they meet with their counterparts from the House of Representatives.
Plaudits trail U-turn, knocks hits direct primaries provision
Meanwhile, mixed reactions, yesterday, greeted the Senate’s positions. While the Senator was hailed for its U-turn on electronic transmission of election results, it was criticised for imposing direct primaries on political parties.
Ekweremadu hails colleagues
Former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu hailed the Senate for reversing itself on electronic transmission of results, describing it as a huge victory for the nation’s democracy.
Ekweremadu said the Senate’s action justified his assurances to Nigerians in July that all hope was not lost for electronic transmission of 2023 election results despite the initial setback.
In a statement by his Media Adviser, Uche Anichukwu, the lawmaker said: “I want to specially commend the Senate for setting aside narrow partisan interests to correct the mistake of July 15, 2021 by reversing itself on the issue of electronic transmission of election results.
“This clause, though not originally part of the Bill, was introduced by the Joint National Assembly Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, which I am part of, to save the nation the troubles of ballot box snatching, electoral violence, and manipulations that happen between the polling booth and collation centres.
“Although I was representing Nigeria at an international parliamentary session in Montenegro and therefore unavoidably absent during passage of the Bill in July, I had assured Nigerians that we would work with progressives across party lines to dialogue with our colleagues and other critical stakeholders to ensure that electronic transmission of results was restored in the Bill.
“It is, therefore, heart-warming that my confidence in the capacity of my colleagues to dialogue and rise above narrow partisan interest on this matter was not misplaced.”
A welcome development — INEC
Speaking in like manner, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairmn, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said: “The Senate’s decision to allow the INEC to determine the mode of transmission of election results is a welcome development.
“It would bring about a paradigm shift from where we have been all these years in terms of the conduct and overall management of elections.
“Electronic transmission of results will engender trust in the electoral system, facilitate timely and efficient results management and announcement and reduce negative human interventions in determining the outcome of elections to the barest minimum.
“Besides, it will allow for transparency and accountability more than the tedious manual process.
“Auditing and verification of results will become smoother. It will also make for quicker and more transparent election adjudication.”
On direct primaries, he said: “The subsisting law states that political parties shall nominate candidates either through Direct or Indirect Primaries.
“If the National Assembly decides to change the method to Direct Primaries only, the Commissiion’s duty is to implement what the law says.
“However, let’s not forget that the law stipulating manual collation of results has neither been repealed nor changed at this point.
“The amendments being undertaken at the moment would still have to be transmitted to Mr. President for his assent.”
Wike hails Senate’s U-turn
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, also hailed the decision of the National Assembly to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to determine the use of electronic voting and transfer of results in the 2023 polls.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, the governor said: “I think it is good news to hear that the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed for INEC to transmit results electronically.
“That is good news to hear. Like I have always said, what is important now is what do the people want? The moment you do what the people want you will see happiness everywhere.
“I think it is a good development for Nigeria and democracy. And I will urge them, the two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate to abide by that recommendation by the joint committee of the two chambers because it is for their own interest.
“I commend the Senate President and the Speaker, House of Representatives, all the principal officers and members who felt that they must listen to what is good for Nigeria and what is good for Nigerians.”
Wike, while speaking on the amendment of the Electoral Act, stated that the issue of direct or indirect primaries should be the exclusive decision of the political parties in the country, adding that it will be unfair for the National Assembly to prescribe for political parties how to conduct their primaries.
“It is not the for the National Assembly to dictate that you must do it by direct or indirect method. That is not democracy.
“That should be an internal affair of the party. The National Assembly should realise that doing that is interfering in the internal politics of the parties and that will not augur well.”
APC using its NASS majority to manipulate constitution in its favour – CUPP
However, the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, criticised the Senate over its position on direct primaries.
National Secretary of the CUPP, High Chief Peter Ameh, in a chat with Vanguard, said: “Why should the method of selecting/electing political party representatives be forced down their throat?
“It is totally absurd and uncalled for. This direct primaries is a direct assault on parties to freely determine the most suitable means of conducting its internal affairs.
“This is interference in the affairs of the party by taking away the right of party organs to make decisions for the smooth running of party activities. What Party A wants is different from Party B.
“APC is using it’s majority in the National Assembly to manipulate the constitution in their favour and force the decision of APC down the throat of other parties.
“This authoritarian will of the APC majority is not good for our democracy.
“They can’t dictate to political parties the means of party nomination. Do they give political parties grant? No!
“So they should allow political parties look for most cost-effective ways to manage internal issues as it relates to the conduct of party primaries.
“Let them approve Option A-4 as the means of voting in an election if truly they want things to work in Nigeria.”
The CUPP said the Senate does not deserve commendations for approving electronic transmission of election results. “We should not applaud the Senate for doing the right thing after so much public outcry.”
PDP chides Senate, APC over direct primary clause
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described the Senate’s adoption of direct primary for the nomination of candidates for election in all political parties “as a retrogressive provision that seeks to wipe off all the gains achieved in our electoral practice since 1999.”
This is as the party said in a statement signed by its Spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, that the decision by the APC-controlled Senate “is a humongous blow to the development of democratic norms and a plot to introduce anarchy during internal party elections as currently obtainable in the APC.”
The statement read: “The PDP holds that the provision is aimed at increasing the costs of nomination procedures, thereby surrendering the processes to money bags against the wishes and aspiration of Nigerians.
“Our party makes bold to state that with the exception of the APC, which intends to deploy looted funds in future elections, hardly will there be any political party that will be able to raise the cost of conducting internal elections under a direct primary process.
“This is why the decision of the Senate has elicited widespread rejection from Nigerians across board.
“The PDP therefore urges the Senate to immediately deploy its appropriate legislative instruments to reverse itself on the direct primary as it is not operable and does not reflect the wishes and aspiration of majority of Nigerians.”
APC keeps mum
Contacted, the National Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe was not immediately available for comments.
“However, a top official of the party who did not want his name mentioned said the party will not officially react to the development.
According to him, the amendment is still a proposal until it is assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari. “What will the APC be reacting to?
“A proposal that has not been assented to by Mr President? What if we react now and tomorrow the president sends a follow-up amendment to the lawmakers or he withholds assent?”