From Fred Itua, Abuja
Thirteen months after it considered and passed the Electoral Amendment Bill for second reading, the National Assembly, yesterday, held a public hearing, where stakeholders expressed divergent views on some of the proposed amendments.
According to the proposed amendment, the National Assembly said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be legally empowered to adopt electronic voting or manual as the case may be.
In the proposed amendment, the National Assembly said “the Commission may adopt electronic voting or any other method of voting in any election it conducts as it may deem fit.”
Amending Section 63(4) which “provides that a presiding officer should count and announce the result at the polling units”, the National Assembly ruled out electronic transmission of results.
In the proposed amendment, it states: “INEC can transmit the results of the election from the polling unit to the first level of collation of results to which the polling unit belongs in the constituency where the election is held.”
In total, there are 50 proposed amendments. Another key amendment is Section 65. The current section states that “after results are recorded and announced, the presiding officer shall deliver election materials and the recorded results to persons prescribed by the Commission. This must be done under security and in the company of the candidates or their polling agents.”
The proposed amendment “mandates the Commission to compile, maintain and update a national electronic register on election results as a separate database. The national electronic register will contain the information of results from every polling unit in every election conducted.”
However, stakeholders present at the meeting, insisted that a new electoral amendment law must address key concerns raised by Nigerians. They said elections must be credible and results transmitted electronically.
In November 2019, when the Bill was debated on the floor of the Senate, sponsor of the bill and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, included electronic transmission of results.
The Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly had attempted the electoral reform but failed to get the presidential approval at the end. The bill sought to strengthen internal democracy, reduce the cost of politics, widen political participation and the conduct of free fair and credible elections through technological innovations and an electronic database.
However, there were concerns raised over the enforceability of some of its provisions.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in refusing to sign that bill, had said: “I am declining assent to the bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general elections, which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.
“Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process.”