The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday reversed its position on the clause for electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results, which empowers Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) to determine the suitability of transmission of results, subject to approval of the National Assembly (NASS). The Senate’s decision followed consideration and approval of motion moved by Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi on “Re-Committal of Some Clauses of the Electoral Act repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2021” at plenary on Tuesday. On July 15, 2021, the Senate had amended clause 52(3) of the bill to empower NCC to determine suitability of the network, for transmission of results electronically, with the approval of the National Assembly. Clause 52, ( 3) of the draft bill had originally prescribed that INEC shall determine voting at election and transmission of results, which may include electronic voting. The clause was, however, amended, to empower NCC to determine suitability of the network for electronic election processes with approval of the National Assembly.
The Senate’s decision had generated unpleasant debates among Nigerians and civil society groups, leading most Nigerians to question the decision, saying that it was meant to undermine and erode the constitutional powers of INEC to conduct elections in Nigeria. Presenting the motion for re-committal of some of the clauses on Electoral Act repeal and re-enactment bill 2021, Abdullahi said after critical examination of the bill by the Senate Committee on INEC, that there were some fundamental issues, which required fresh legislative action on some clauses. The clauses, according to Abdullahi are 43, 52, 63, and 87. He said there was a need to address the observation by the committee and make necessary amendments based on order 1 (b) and 53(6) of the Senate standing order.
“Senate accordingly rescinds its decision on the affected clauses of the bill as passed and re-commit same to the committee of the whole for consideration and passage,” Abdullahi said. Contributing, Sen. Adamu Aliero (APC-Kebbi), who seconded the motion said the motion would strengthen the electoral process and give Nigerians more power to select their desired leaders He said the motion, if adopted would help the electorate to ensure that questionable characters are not elected into governance. According to Aliero, the motion would discourage money bags from taking over and determine the outcome of elections in the country. However, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC-Kogi) was against the amendment of clause 87 to introduce direct primary election. The clause had earlier prescribed for political parties to decide to conduct direct or indirect primary elections.
Adeyemi, however, said motion to amend the clause to introduce direct primaries would make the electoral process burdensome to the people. Other Senators, who also supported the motion for amendment includes Senators Opeyemi Bamidela (APC-Ekiti) Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDPAbia) Abdulfatai Buhari (APCOyo). Senate after a voice vote amended the clause 52 to now empower INEC to determining the mode of voting and transmission of results. Other clauses that Senate rescinded its decision was on clauses 43, ,63, and 87.which borders on mode of conduct of primary elections by political parties, ballot boxes and voting devices President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan in his remarks, urged members of the Senate conference committee to take into consideration, the debates of senators during harmonisation of the bill with the House of Representatives Conference Committee.