By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Nigeria’s leading electoral observer, Yiaga Africa, has urged the National Assembly to adopt e-transmission of results in the Electoral Bill.
Speaking on Friday, during a ‘Stakeholders’ Reflection Roundtable on Electoral Reform’ in Abuja, Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, called on the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives to set up Conference Committee to harmonise different versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by both chambers, and adopt sections that will be in the interest of democracy.
While calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the bill when submitted to him, she said the country needs an electoral law that can be tried at least in the next election at Ekiti State before the general elections as it will make Nigerians and election observers to be familiar with the new law, and if INEC requires support it will be given before the 2023 general elections.
She said: “In doing this, the legislators are encouraged to reconsider their positions on certain suggestions made by citizens and stakeholders, some of which were overlooked, politicized or became contentious.
“The National Assembly beyond immediately constituting a conference committee should conclude on the electoral amendment bill for onward transmission to the President and that the executive should be ready to assent.
“We do not want the incident of 2018 to repeat itself, where the President declined assent after a lot of investments had gone into electoral reform.
“Importantly, the Conference committee should also make decisions in line with citizens’ demands in adopting amendments where both chambers adopted different version towards transparent and credible elections.
“For us at Yiaga, what is expedient for us is for the committee in their decision to ensure that citizens voices are reflected and key provisions that we believe should be adopted with the electoral amendment bill.
“One of that is the clause 52, the provision on INEC’s power to transmit results electronically. We believe the electoral commission is ready and capable to deploy electronic transmission of results. The house version of the bill gives INEC the discretion to decide the procedure for voting and transmission of results.
“We believe the version of the House of Reps, and the version of the bill should be adopted giving INEC the powers to decide the procedure for voting and transmission of results.
“The Senate version is problematic because it seeks to give power to the communications commission to make decisions over the procedures and for INEC. For us that is unconstitutional, because INEC as an executive body established by the constitution is independent.
“The other is in the conversion around the accreditation of voting. There is a disparity with respect to what was passed in the Senate and the House, and we believe that the version to be adopted is to give INEC the power to either deploy the smart card reader or any other technological devices for the conduct of accreditation of voters.
“That way you are not limiting INEC to just the use of the smart card reader because INEC is already deploying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, which was piloted in Delta State Assembly bye-elections, and we think that INEC is ready to deploy a new technology, therefore limiting INEC to the smart card reader will be in contradiction to what INEC is already planning to do, and the electoral act gives INEC that power to choose.
“Beyond this there are important provisions that made it in, we do not have time anymore.”
Also speaking the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said democratic governance can only be sustained by ensuring credibility of elections.
“We should dedicate ourselves to win the people. Let’s support fair and transparent elections. We should also look at what we have achieved and see areas that need improvement”.
Bashir also commended Yiaga for organizing the forum, and said election is in a democratic society must be fair, transparent and generally acceptable to the people.