From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it is empowered by the Nigerian constitution to transmit election results electronically without seeking the approval of the National Communication Commission (NCC).
Ogun State Residence Electoral Officer for the electoral umpire, Olusegun Agbaje, stated this yesterday at a press conference in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital.
The National Assembly in the proposed amendment of the electoral law had insisted that the commission must seek the approval of NCC before transmitting election results electronically.
However, Agbaje, who just assumed duty as the new REC for Ogun State, disagreed with the National Assembly saying INEC had constitutional backing to transmit election results electronically without the approval of NCC.
He said it would be a great disservice to Nigerians and the country’s democracy, were the National Assembly to prevent INEC from electronic transmision of results even as he urged the lawmakers not to interfere in the constitutional duties of the electoral umpire.
“The commission is in no way shy in transmitting election results electronically. In fact, we have the capacity to do that. We are only waiting for the National Assembly not to debar us. Even as we are today, I believe that the constitution has enough reason and legislation to back us to do this.
“People have been saying there is no law backing this; but we have a law. Unfortunately that law signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan was not brought out before the 2015 general election, but it was signed before the election. We have that law which backs us to conduct elections using technology.
“Even without the National Assembly coming to our aid, the law we have already capacitates us to go ahead to do transmission electronically if the National Assembly will not stop us, because if they are going ahead with this committee they have set up at the two Houses, if the two Houses now resolve that we should not do it, it means that there is a new law against us.”
Agbaje, expressed the optimism that with voices of support from Nigerians, the media, NGOs and others, the National Assembly would do the right thing by allowing INEC to go ahead in transmitting elections electronically.
“We have the law that has already capacitated us to do this thing, but if they are going to ban us then that will be too bad.”
“If there is any way that they think that the NCC can help, or if NCC is having challenges, let them go ahead and improve in those areas where they think they are having challenges, because they have enough time. To INEC, we don’t see any problem; we are ready and we have the capacity to do it.”
Agbaje, however, lamented the low participation of eligible voters in the first quarter of the ongoing Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) exercise in Ogun state.