Senators have whittled down the provisions for electronic transmission of results in the report of its Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The report of the Committee led by Senator Kabiru Gaya on the Independent National Electoral Commission on the Electoral Act 2016 (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was considered clause by clause on Thursday.
The lawmakers were divided over provisions of Section 52(3) on electronic transmission of results.
The section reads: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
Senator representing Niger North, Sabi Abdullahi proposed an amendment to the section with the provision that the nation’s telecommunication regulatory agency, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) should determine when electronic transmission be deployed, subject to the approval of the National Assembly.
The amendment proposed which eventually sailed through reading in part:
The Commission may consider the electronic transmission of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secured by the National Communications Commission.”
Senator representing Borno South, Ali Ndume seconded the amendment, while Senator Albert Bassey Akpan proposed that the original draft be retained.
The contentious amendment which carried the day was resolved through physical voting.
Lawmakers had faulted the ruling of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan who ruled in favour of the amendment.
After the uproar, Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe called for division in line with Order 73 of the Senate rules.
Senator Lawan mandated Clerk to the Senate, Ibrahim Ladan to conduct the physical voting.
At the end of the voting which lasted for over 40 minutes, in which 80 Senators voted, the APC lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of the amendment proposed by Senator Abdullahi.
52 Senators voted No in favour of the amendment, as against 28, who voted Yes for the retention of the original clause recommended by Senator Gaya’s Committee.
Incidentally, Senator Gaya who was Chairman of the Committee on INEC voted against his Committee recommendation.
Investigation revealed that one senator on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, Senator Stephen Odey, representing Cross Rivers North did not align with his colleagues on the platform of the main opposition party as he voted No in support of the amendment.
Further breakdown of the voting process revealed that 28 Senators were absent. Despite the pronouncements of the six Southwest governors in favour of electronic voting and transmission of results, at their meeting with the federal lawmakers last week in Abuja, the Senators representing the zone faltered.
All the Senators from Ogun State were absent while only Senator Kola Balogun representing Oyo South took part in the voting as the two others— Teslim Folarin and AbdulFatah Buhari, representing Oyo Central and North, respectively were absent.
Two out of the three Lagos State Senators, Oluremi Tinubu and Olamilekan Adeola, representing Lagos Central and West, respectively voted for the amendment. Their counterpart from Lagos east, Tokunbo Abiru was absent.
APC Senator representing Ondo North, Robert Ajayi Boroffice voter No for the amendment while his Ondo central counterpart and PDP senator, Ayo Akinyelure voted Yes for the retention of electronic voting as recommended. Senator Nicholas Tofowomo from Ondo South was absent.
The two APC senators, Ajibola Basiru and Adeyemi Oriolowo, Osun Central and West voted No in favour of the amendment while the PDP senator representing Osun East, Francis Fadahunsi, voted Yes for electronic transmission as recommended.
Senator representing Ekiti Central, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, voted No in favour of the amendment of the clause while PDP senator representing Ekiti South, Biodun Olujinmi voted Yes, that the clause be retained. APC Senator representing Ekiti North, Olubunmi Adetumbi was absent.
The President of the Senate in his concluding remarks said the recourse to physically voting as against the usual practise of voice vote was a victory for democracy.
He said:” We have gone through probably the most rigorous process we ever had. “We had at a point had to go through a division, but that is democracy. No hard feelings and I’m sure that Nigerians will appreciate the depth of concern by all of us here.
“Those who voted for amendments and those who voted against, each one of us did so out of conviction for what we believe will be better for this country.
“In this case, the Electoral Amendment Bill has now been passed by the Senate and we expect that the House of Representatives, our counterparts will do the same.
“If in any case, we have even if it’s a single difference between our version and theirs, there will be a committee to harmonise, the conference committee.
“If however, there is no difference between what we have passed here and what they would have passed in the House, this Bill will now be sent to Mr President for his Presidential assent.
“But I want to assure all Nigerians that what the Senate did was to show serious concern and care about the divergent views of Nigerians on the election process in this country.
“All of us want to see an election process that is all-inclusive, that is fair, that is equitable and just to everyone, whether someone is in the city or in the villages or in the hamlets.
“I wish INEC the best and Nigerians to support INEC at all times to ensure that our elections are done quite a in time without postponement due to one reason or the other.
“We pray that this bill will guide the 2023 general elections so well. And we hope to have a better and more improved election process in 2023.”