By Lateef Adegbite
With the successful adoption of electronic voting and transmission of results in the Saturday, November, 6, Anambra state governorship elections, in the south east geopolitical region, without allegations of election malpractices such as rigging and hijacking of electoral boxes or manipulation of result sheets, may have encouraged the Senate to approve the Harmonised Electoral Amendment bill which had been on the drawing board for months.
Resuming from their three weeks recess last Tuesday, November 9, 2021, which had coincided with the Ihiala local government Area in Anambra state governorship supplementary elections, the Senate at its plenary session had approved the electronic voting and transmission of election results which is contained in the Harmonised Electoral Act Bill.
Debate on the Bill had been abandoned over the last couple of months because of the strong opposition of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Senators, against it, thus forcing the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Senators to walk out in one of their meetings that almost ended in a fisticuffs.
The Senators may have seen that Nigerians would hold them responsible if the 2023 general elections is marred with irregularities than to pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill sponsored by Professor Mahmood Yakubu , led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the adoption of electronic voting and transmission f results.
Prior the approval of the long standing Bill, the Ahmad Lawan , led upper Chamber of the National Assembly had constituted a seven-man Conference Committee, with members drawn from both the ruling APC and the Opposition parties to meet with the Femi Gbajabiamila , led House, Conference Committee to harmonise their differences, on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and make their recommendation.
Informed sources told The Value News based on the harmonization of their differences and the report presented the Senate President, which he had presented the Committee of the whole Senate, the Senators who have been under intense pressure from the officials of the Electoral umpire which have the sole power to determine the mode of transmission of election results after voting had to cave in.
Recall that the Senate had given as a condition to approve the electronic voting and transmission of results for the country provided Isa Ibrahim Patami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy and Umar Garba Danbatta, a Professor, and Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, could guarantee that ‘‘the national network coverage is adequate and secure to serve the needs of the country’’.
The signal the Senators have got from Patami, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy and Danbatta, the NCC, boss have forced them to finally approve the Bill without further delay to avoid playing into the hands of Nigerians who have ‘‘adopted a sit don they look attitude’’.
Under the new amendment of Clause 52(2) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill,, the Senate ‘’resolved that voting in an election and transmission of results under the Bill shall be in accordance with procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting’’. This clearly shows that if the Commission comes under pressure from the fifth Columnist in the 2023, general elections, it may decide to adopt both the use of ballot papers and electronic voting depending on the area and level of enlightenment of the people.
Many believe that ‘‘if the nation’s banking sector could be entirely ditalised, and POS vendors have become ever present fixtures in even the remotest part of the country, just as commerce is now mainstream and national standardized tests such UTME, are wholly electronic, and the Patami led ministry of Communications and Digital economy had given a matching order that every phone in the country should be linked to the citizens National Identification Number, NIM, there is nothing to worry about electronic voting and transmission of results by INEC, in the country . Recall that the argument in some quarters, particular, APC, Camps, had been that’’ it is susceptible to manipulation by Yahoo boys’’.
With the Senate approval of electronic voting and transmission of results in future elections in the country as contained in the approved Electoral Amendment Bill, INEC, officials, appear to have shifted the battle to the Presidency to facilitate the signing of the Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General into Laws.
Osta Okechukwu, Director General, Voice of Nigeria, VON, had said that Nigerians have no need to worry about the Katsina state born Nigerian President signing the Senate approved Electoral Amendment Act , which had endorsed electronic voting and electronic transmission of results because of his promise ‘’to bequeath Nigeria with credible electoral system, where the people’s vote will count’’.
He had said that the Nigerian President has no reason to veto the Senate approved Electoral Amendment Bill because of the good working relationship with the National Assembly. ‘’He will ‘’sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into Law’’, he had said.
Many believe that with the Senate approval of the Electoral Amendment Act, it has solved one major electoral problem in the country: banish electoral banditry at the collation centers, which will go a long way to extend the country’s Democratic frontiers.