John Alechenu, Sunday Aborisade and Leke Baiyewu
16 July 2021
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• Decision of the APC-led Senate shocking, it undermines our electoral process – PDP
Facts on Thursday emerged about how the All Progressives Congress rallied its Senators to reject moves to adopt electronic transmission of election results in 2023.
The PUNCH gathered that since last month, the APC had been reaching out to its lawmakers through zonal caucuses and insisting that their position on the controversial issue would test their loyalty to the party.
On Thursday, those who rejected the move to adopt electronic transfer of results in 2023 included Southern APC senators, whose governors, at a meeting in Lagos on July 5, warned against its removal in the amended Electoral Act.
Recall that the Southern Governors’ Forum, at its meeting in Lagos on July 5, called for the retention of the electronic transfer of results in the the Electoral Act.
The SGF, in a communiqué read by its Chairman and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had stated, “The Southern Governors’ Forum rejects the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election results from the Electoral Act.”
On Thursday, the red chamber amended over 150 clauses in the 2010 Electoral Act but failed to make transmission of results compulsory in future elections.
The red chamber ruled out the possibility of having results transmitted electronically when it voted that the Nigerian Communications Commission, with National Assembly approval, would determine whether the Independent National Electoral Commission could transmit results electronically or not.
Those who voted against electronic transfer of results hinged their decision on the fact that the NCC had said only 43 per cent of Nigeria had internet network.
It was gathered that before Thursday, the APC had held a series of meetings with the APC leadership in the Senate and the House of Representatives to seek support for the rejection of the portion of the Electoral Act supporting the electronic transfer of results.
It was learnt that party leaders were uncomfortable with the potential damage the clause could cause if allowed to pass without modification.
A high-ranking member of the APC, who spoke to one of our correspondents, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, “This is politics and as the governing party, you don’t allow the opposition to dictate the pace.
“Those in opposition certainly know something we don’t know. The way they (PDP) were pushing for this electronic transfer of results or electronic voting thing using NGOs, international agencies and all that, should tell you something.
“Yes, we appreciate technology but the reality on ground is that we still have the challenge of infrastructure. There are several villages where these electronic devices don’t work. We are simply not ready for the kind of changes the opposition is trying to force us to accept.”
It was gathered that the party leadership reached out to members through the various caucuses in both chambers ahead of Thursday’s vote.
Attempts to get a reaction from the National Secretary of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, were futile. He neither picked nor returned calls to his mobile phone.
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed disappointment at the turn of events.
He said, “We in the PDP have always made our position on electoral reforms known. As a political party interested in deepening democracy, we set up a high-powered committee headed by the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, to canvass our position which included the issue of electronic transfer of results. The problem of our electoral system has always been at the point of collation of results.”
In a statement later, the spokesman stated, “The PDP and indeed the majority of Nigerians are shocked over the decision of the APC-led Senate to undermine our electoral process by refusing to approve the demand by Nigerians across board for electronic transmission of election results without conditionalities.”
On Thursday, the senators were divided along party lines with the PDP members supporting electronic transfer of election results, while their APC colleagues, including southern members, insisted that it should only be adopted when feasible.
The Senate Committee on INEC had, in the report, recommended in Section 52(3) that “The commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
But an APC senator from Niger North, Sabi Abdullahi, amended the clause to read, “INEC may consider electronic collation of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secured by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”
Uproar as senators disagree over electronic result transmission
During plenary, there was uproar over provisions of clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.
The clause which took Senate about three hours to consider and approved , first created stalemate when Senator Albert Akpan Bassey (PDP Akwa Ibom North East), countered the amendment made by Senator Abdullahi .
Akpan, in his own amendment, sought for retention of the provision as originally proposed by the committee which was however voted against when put to voice votes as ruled by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.
After the ruling , the Senate was in stalemate for about 15 minutes, which led to a closed session.
When the Senate failed to reach consensus on the matter at the closed session which lasted for about an hour , the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe rose through order 73 of the Senate Standing Rules to call for division on amendment sought by Akpan .
Though the Leader of the Senate, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North) and Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), separately made spirited efforts to make Abaribe withdraw his motion on division, the Minority leader stood his ground for the division and physical counting of votes.
Before the physical voting was done by calling the senators one after the other per state, the President of the Senate explained to them that those in favour of amendment made by Abdullahi should say No, while those for the counter amendment made by Bassey should say yes.
After the explanation, the Clerk of the Senate, Ibrahim El-Ladan presided over the election by calling the Senators one after the other on the basis of state by state .
How the senators voted
At the end of the physical voting, which lasted for about 40 minutes, a total of 80 Senators voted, out of which 52 voted for the amendment made by Abdullahi and 28 voted for original provision of the clause.
As announced by the Clerk, 28 Senators were absent during the division and voting session.
While all the 52 Senators who voted for the amendment belonged to the APC, 26 out of the 28 Senators who voted against the amendment belonged to the PDP, indicating party lines of voting.
Ironically , the Chairman of Senate Committee on INEC , Senator Kabiru Gaya who presented the report with original provision of clause 52(3), voted against it by saying no to Senator Albert Bassey’s call for its retention.
Those who voted against recommendation
At plenary, two Lagos Senators – Oluremi Tinubu and Solomon Adeola, – voted against the original recommendation of the committee, which called for adoption of electronic transfer of results. Senator Tokunbo Abiru was however absent.
Other APC Southern senators who voted against it included Senators Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North); Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central), Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North), Francis Alimikhena (Edo North) and Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central); Degi Eremienyo (Bayelsa East); Robert Boroffice (Ondo North), Basiru Ajibola (Osun Central), Frank Ibezim (Imo North), and Adelere Oriolowo (Osun West).
Others APC senators are Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa North), Akwashiki Godiya (Nasarawa South), Mohammed Sani (Niger East), Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi (Niger North), Bima Enagi ( Niger South); Dimka Ayuba (Plateau Central), Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East) Yusuf Yusuf (Taraba Central), Isa Shuaibu Lau (Taraba North) Bomai Ibrahim Mohammed (Yobe South), Sahabi Ya’u (Zamfara North) and Lawali Hassan Anka (Zamfara West).
Ishaku Elisha (Adamawa North), Dahiru Aishatu Binani (Adamawa Central), Jika Daudu Haliru (Bauchi Central), Bukachuwa Adamu Muhammad (Bauchi North), Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), Shettima Kashim (Borno Central), Ali Ndume (Borno South) also voted against the recommendation of the committee.
Also in the above category are Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Amos Bulus (Gombe South), Alkali Saidu (Gombe North), Hadeija Hassan Ibrahim (Jigawa North East), Abdul-Kwari Suleiman (Kaduna North), Uba Sani (Kaduna Central), Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North), Mundiya Bello (Katsina South), Abdullahi Barkiya (Katsina Central); Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North), Abdullahi Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central), Oseni Yakubu (Kogi Central), Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), Isah Jibrin (Kogi East), Lola Ashiru (Kwara South) and Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central).
A PDP Senator, Stephen Odey (Cross River North), who sources said was about to defect to the APC also rejected it.
Those who voted for
Those who voted for electronic transfer of results were mostly PDP members. They are Adenugba Fadahunsi(Sun East), Clifford Ordia (Edo South) Matthew Urhoghide (Edo Central), Kola Balogun (Oyo South), Gyang Istifanus (Plateau North), George Sekibo (Rivers), Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti) South, Mpigi Barinada, Betty Apiafi, (Rivers) Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto) and Philip Aduda (FCT).
Others are Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu) Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba, Francis Onyewuchi , Danjuma La’ah (Kaduna South) Patrick Akinyelure (Ondo Central) and Enyinnaya Abaribe
All the three Senators from Anambra and Ogun states , were absent from the start of the physical voting. Also, two out of the three senators from Oyo State were not in the chamber before the commencement of voting.
The clause as originally recommended by the committee states, “The commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable”
The amended version adopted by the Senate after voice votes and votes counted during division states “INEC may consider electronic transmission of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communication Commission and approved by the National Assembly”.
Electronic transmission of results not compulsory – Senate spokesman
But after plenary, the Senate declared that the clamour for electronic transmission of results in the 2023 general elections was not sacrosanct.
The spokesperson for the upper chamber, Senator Ajibola Basiru, stated this while addressing journalists shortly after the Senate passed the Electoral Act (amendments) Bill 2021.
Explaining why the Senate took the decision, the spokesperson said it was necessary for the NCC and the National Assembly to certify the circumstances, adequacy and security of electronic transmission of results.
On whether electronic transmission of results would be used for 2023 elections, Basiru said, “Electronic transmission of results is just permissive not compulsory.”
He said, “Nobody has said INEC must do electronic voting, we only give permission to them if they so desire to be able to do so.
“When it comes to electronic transmission of results, we have not said you cannot transmit election results electronically we only said, let us certify the circumstances, adequacy and security of that.
“There is nothing sacrosanct to say that there will be electronic voting in 2023. There may be or may not, depending on the circumstances that we find ourselves.”
Senator Opeyemi Bamidele told our correspondent that the NCC must have an advisory role.
He said, “If NCC says there is no coverage in a particular area. it is the only NCC that can determine that, not INEC. The role of INEC is to determine the mode of the election.
“Election is a process. It starts with the registration of voters, to conduct of elections, the voting, the counting and the eventual announcement as well as transmission of results.
“We all supported electronic voting. The only area of disagreement is in the area of transmission but we have said that the NCC with the National Assembly approval, would determine whether it wanted to use electronic transmission or not.
“However, the same NCC has incontrovertibly given us a record that only 43 per cent of Nigeria as a country, has internet. So, you cannot disenfranchise 57 per cent of the remaining populace because you are insisting on electronic transmission of results.”
Similarly, Senator Ali Ndume said the issue of electronic transmission was not feasible in Nigeria for now.
He said, “Initially, I came with a motion that the entire clause that has to do with electronic transmission should be completely expunged from the amendments because we are not there yet.
“I have said it several times that electronic voting is the way to go but we are not there yet. It is more futuristic than realistic.
“So, why do we start something that we are not even sure whether it would not create confusion. So, let us go with the system that we know.”
Why I voted against electronic transmission – INEC panel chair
Senator Kabiru Gaya, the Chairman of the INEC panel said he voted against his committee’s recommendation on electronic transmission of results because the amended version was better.
He said, “I did not vote against my bill, Senator George Sekibo who accused me of doing so was just playing to the gallery.
“If you prepare something and you later saw an improved version of it, you can go for it.
“There is nothing wrong if the chairman of a committee support the amended version of a report he presented.
“It is not possible as it is, to transmit election in one part of the country and refused to do so in other part.
“It has to be uniform. The card reader can work anywhere in the country but you need network coverage to transmit results.
“Although INEC has said it is ready to do electronic transmission of results, but we have to involve the NCC and the National Assembly to create check and balances.
“The NCC will come to the National Assembly and we will determine whether its claims were practicable or not NCC.”
The Chief Whip of the Senate, who is representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, attributed his reason for voting against the committee’s recommendation to the fact that there was no network coverage in his town.
Kalu, a two time governor of Abia State, said, “I am voting No because there is no telecommunications network in my village and I will not want my people to be disenfranchised.”
Senate’s decision based on members conviction
Lawan after passage of the bill said senators voted according to their convictions on what they believed was best for the country.
Lawan 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.”
Gbajabiamila summons INEC, NCC as electronic results’ transmission causes stalemate
In the House of Representatives, the Passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill was stalled on Thursday, forcing the chamber to continue consideration of its clauses on Friday (today).
The National Assembly does not hold plenary on Friday and the House was to begin the two-month annual recess on Thursday, but for the development.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, had to adjourn plenary till Friday when Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu; and Executive Secretary of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, would brief the chamber on the implication of having election results transmitted electronically.
The House spent about two hours on clause 52(2) of the bill as several attempts to have it amended were overruled by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the Committee of the Whole to consider the clauses of the bill.
The clause caused a division in the House, with the lawmakers polarised along regional lines, causing rowdiness in the chamber for several hours, during which several lawmakers engaged themselves in shouting matches.
For instance, Shehu Koko and Ifeanyi Momah, almost went physical after a hot exchange but for the timely intervention of colleagues who held them apart.
Yusuf Gadgi also had confrontations with several lawmakers. He eventually had a fight with Mark Gbillah close to Gbajabiamila as Speaker led principal officers out of the chamber. They were quickly separated.
Several members of the House from the South, across party lines, insisted on electronic transaction of result.