The Senate, yesterday, bowed to outrage and outright rejection of the 2021 Amended Electoral Act by Nigerians earlier in July as they upturned their position against electronic transmission of election results.
In a majority decision, they have now given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) full powers, like voting, under the bill, shall now be in accordance with the procedure determined by INEC.
The Senators had earlier denied the Commission the power to transmit results of elections electronically but rather empowered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly to determine the use of electronic transmission for elections; though the lower chamber was more circumspect in dealing with clause 52(3), leaving electronic transmission of results in the hands of INEC.
Thereafter, the Senate President instituted a conference committee, which shall meet to harmonise the various reports of both chambers on electronic transmission.
The Senators during the consideration of what they referred to as recommittal of amended clauses for an act to repeal the Electoral Bill 2021, No. 6, and enact the Electoral Act 2021, yesterday, adopted the position of the lower chamber.
ON the nomination of candidates by political parties, the Senate also adopted the resolution of the lower chamber, which recommended direct primary.
The Senate, when it passed the Electoral Act amendment on clause 87, had left it open for political parties to determine whether to use direct, consensus or indirect primary. However, while considering the report of the conference committee yesterday, they also adopted the position of the House.
In all, the Senate passed a new bill, which amended some clauses in the Electoral Bill, including sections 52 and 87 on electronic transmission of results and nomination of candidates by political parties.
The controversial clause 52(3) is now amended to 52(2), which reads: “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 the Commission (INEC), which may include electronic voting.”
This is against the previous wording of the paragraph, which was changed from: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable,” to “the Commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”
On the nomination of candidates by parties, the Senate had earlier passed clause 87(1), which allows parties to hold either direct or indirect methods of conducting primaries.
The clause is now amended to 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.”
In a motion to recommit some clauses in the bill, the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, who sponsored the bill, asked that the Senate “rescind its decision on the affected clause of the bill as passed and recommit same to the committee of the whole for consideration and passage.”
He said after a critical examination of the bill by the Senate Committee on INEC, some fundamental issues, which required fresh legislative action on Clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87 were observed.
He said there was a need to address the observations by the committee and make necessary amendments relying on Order 53(6) of the Senate Standing Order.
This Order allows the Senate to reconsider the substantive motion for rescission.
The amended clauses now read: Clause 43(1) – The commission shall provide suitable boxes, electronic voting machines or any other voting device for the conduct of elections.
43(2) The forms to be used for the conduct of elections to the offices mentioned in this bill shall be determined by the commission.
43(3) The polling agents shall be entitled to be present at the distribution of the election materials, electronic voting machine and voting devices from the office to the polling booth.
Clause 52(2) 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 the commission, which may include electronic voting.
Clause 63(5) The presiding officer shall transfer the results including a total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the commission.
87(1) 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.
In his contribution, Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi) supported the amendments and said it will deepen democracy and make the electoral process transparent. Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) said the amendment of clause 87 for direct primaries would allow for inclusivity and strengthen democracy. The time for Nigeria to adopt direct primaries is long overdue, he said.
The Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia), hailed the amendment that allows INEC to determine the use of electronic transmission of result. He, however, said political parties should be allowed to practise the kind of primary election they are capable of.
Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi) and Shuaibu Lau (PDP, Taraba) opposed the amendment for direct primaries. The amended clauses will be sent back to the conference committee for harmonization.
EXPLAINING reasons for the amendments, the Senate insisted that the decision to endorse the use of direct primary in the electoral amendment bill was not targeted at whittling down the powers of the governors. The governors had been accused of not only highjacking the party structures in their respective states but are known to have relied on the indirect mode of primaries to impose their stooges on their parties.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ajibola Basiru, who briefed reporters at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, said there is no iota of truth in the notion that the measure was targeted at governors.
The Osun lawmaker, who is a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC), explained that the adoption of the direct mode of primaries was aimed at ensuring internal democracy in the parties.
He said: “Those people that said that they want to set us up against our governors need to know that as far as I am concerned, the governor of my state is my leader. So, I am not against my governor.
“For me, all the talks are speculations and it has no basis. The truth is that it is not a gang up like is being insinuated, what we did was to strengthen what the House of Representatives adopted. They have adopted direct primaries.
“We didn’t have any governor in mind. And in any case, we felt some people who are in the Senate also hope to be governors someday. So they can’t be making laws against themselves when they become governors eventually. We felt that there is a world of difference between political processes and legal processes.
“The political processes would ultimately determine who becomes the candidate of any political party irrespective of what procedure you put in your law. So, rather than creating an unnecessary issues that bothers on speculation as to motive, we believe accepting direct primaries will entrench internal democracy.
“I will give you an example, the present governor of Osun State emerged through direct primaries. At that time, our party said you can choose direct or indirect. And he emerged through direct primaries. So, is it a governor that emerged through direct primaries that will say we are using direct primaries to fight them? Nobody is fighting any governor and it is not healthy for anybody to say you are fighting the leaders of political parties at the governors’ level.”
BUT the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the passage of direct primaries for nomination of candidates for election in all political parties by the APC-led Senate, as a retrogressive provision that seeks to wipe off all the gains achieved in the nation’s electoral practice since 1999.
The party said the decision is a huge blow to the development of democratic norms and a plot to introduce anarchy during internal party elections as currently obtainable in the APC.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the provision is aimed at increasing the costs of nomination procedures, thereby surrendering the processes to moneybags 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 a 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,” it stated.
According to the PDP, “this is why the decision of the Senate has elicited widespread rejection from Nigerians across board.”
The PDP urged the Senate to immediately deploy its appropriate legislative instruments to reverse itself on direct primary “as it is not operable and does not reflect the wishes and aspiration of the majority of Nigerians.”
ALSO, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has said direct or indirect primaries should be left at the discretion of the leadership of political parties. In a statement by the National Secretary of CUPP, High Chief Peter Ameh, asked why should the method of selecting/electing party representatives to be forced down the parties’ throats?
“This direct primaries is a direct assault on parties to freely determine the most suitable means of conducting its internal affairs. This is interference into 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 that of Party B.
“APC is using its 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 APC majority is not good for our democracy.
“They can’t dictate for political parties their means of party nomination. Do they give political parties grants? No!, So, they should allow parties to look for the most cost-effective ways to manage internal issues as they relate to the conduct of primaries. Let them approve Option A4 as the means of voting in an election if truly they want things to work in Nigeria,” the statement stated.
Speaking on approval of electronic transmission of results, CUPP said: “As for the approval of electronic transmission of results, we should not applaud the Senate for doing the right thing after so much public outcry. This is why I have insisted that only mass action from citizens can give our democratic process needed growth.
“Citizens must continue to engage the process to protect our democracy or else those elected to serve their interest will remain self-serving Senators.”
FORMER Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, commended the legislative body for reversing itself on electronic transmission of results, saying it was 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 the electronic transmission of 2023 election results despite the initial setback.
In a statement by his media aide, Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu 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 INEC, 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.
“I must also commend the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Nigerians for standing up for what is right for the nation and our democracy.”
THE Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) also commended the Senate for reversing itself on electronic transmission of results, saying it’s a victory for democracy and progressive governance in Nigeria that will go a long way in deepening the nation’s political process critical for inclusive, free, fair, credible, transparent and generally acceptable elections.
IPAC, in a statement issued, yesterday, in Abuja, by its National Publicity Secretary, Ambassador Agbo Major, said IPAC will continue to intervene on critical national issues to jointly strengthen the nation’s frail democracy.
“Political parties have been deregistered for failure to win legislative seats among others when the electoral process is grossly flawed, making it difficult for new parties not in government to win elections. With the electronic transmission of results, each vote will now count and be counted in the overall result. The ballot is sacrosanct, the mandate of the people must be respected. Election is the beauty of democracy. We will keep improving till we get it right as obtainable in advanced democracies,” IPAC said.