From Magnus Eze, Enugu, Romanus Ugwu, Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji, Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Applause and knocks have greeted the decision of the Senate to give the Independent National Electronic Commission the green light to transmit results of elections electronically in the conduct of the 2023 general elections and the adoption of direct primaries method.
Those who hailed the lawmakers included the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Ebonyi Professionals Forum (EPF), Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, former Senate deputy president, Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Kingsley Moghalu and
The upper legislative chamber had reconsidered its earlier position and gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the nod to determine the mode to transmit election results: either electronically or manually.
It also reversed its earlier position and approved that all political parties must use the direct primary mode in picking candidates. This, however, drew the ire of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and Governor Wike.
In its earlier amendment passed in July, Senate had approved both direct and indirect methods.
The landmark moves came barely 24 hours after Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa on Monday.
The decision of the Senate, followed the re-committal of some clauses of the Electoral Act 2010 to the Committee of the Whole.
In July, the Senate, rejected its committee’s report, which had approved electronic transmission of results by INEC. The House of Representatives, however, approved it.
The Senate, said: “After critical examination of the Bill by the Senate Committee on INEC, some fundamental issues which require fresh legislative action on clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87, were observed.”
“Desirous of the need to address the observations by the committee and make necessary amendments, and relying on Order 1(b) and 53(6) of the 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,” Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi stated while moving the motion.
The Senate, had in July, while rejecting the position of its Committee on INEC, opted for a position, which was outrightly rejected by Nigerians.
The senate approved four clauses in the electoral act amendment bill. Part of the clause amended, 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 the Commission (INEC), which may include electronic voting.
“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.”
Daily Sun had reported that plans were underway to force direct method of conducting primary elections on political parties.
Governor Wike said the resolution of the National Assembly joint committee to allow the electoral umpire transmit election results electronically is a good development for Nigeria and democracy.
“I think it is a good news to hear that the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed for INEC to transmit result electronically. That is a good news to hear. Like I have always said, what is important now is what do people want. The moment you do what the people want you’ll see happiness everywhere.”
The governor, who has been a proponent of transparent electoral system, observed that many nations have moved beyond manual result declaration and Nigeria cannot afford in the 21st century to be left behind.
On the amendment of the Electoral Act, Governor Wike stated that the issue of direct or indirect primaries should be the exclusive decision of the political parties in the country.
Governor Wike insisted that National Assembly prescribing how political parties conduct their primaries is tantamount to interference in the internal politics of the parties.
IPAC also believe that electronic transmission of results would go a long way in deepening the nation’s political process critical for inclusive, free, fair, credible, transparent and generally acceptable elections.
National Publicity Secretary, IPAC, Ambassador Agbo Major, in a statement released said: “Reversing itself is a giant step forward in making Nigeria a great arsenal of democracy in Africa. Manipulation of election results, ballot box snatching, violence, vote buying and selling are the bane of the nation’s electoral process.
Former VP Atiku, in a statement by his media office, yesterday, said the harmonisation of positions between the parliament and the electoral body was an indication that the country’s democracy is growing.
He also commended individuals and groups, especially the various pro-democracy advocacy groups that participated in the public discourse on the controversial issue.
“By this outcome, I am convinced that public institutions in Nigeria will continue to play their roles as guardians of public policy.”
Spokesman of ADF, Abia Onyike and National Secretary of Ebonyi Professionals, Ugochukwu Hanks-Ezekiel, described it as a progressive move indicative that power belongs to the people. They said it would go a long way to guarantee free and fair elections in Nigeria.
On the issue of direct primaries, Onyike said: “It is equally a welcome development because the members of political parties would have a say in who their candidates for elections should be. The power is being removed from few delegates who can be easily bought over by money bags.”
For Hanks-Ezekiel, it is a sign of the people’s power to stand together. He also noted that direct primaries would end Godfatherism in the nation’s polity.
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 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 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 the passage of the Bill in July, I had assured Nigerians that we would work with the 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.”