The House of Representatives reaffirmed Monday that the electoral bill’s ratification will not prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), from implementing electronic voting and transmitting election results in 2023.
It went on to say that it had granted the electoral umpire appropriate discretionary powers over whether or not to transmit election results electronically in the disputed Section 52(2) of the electoral bill.
The clarification came as opposition lawmakers pushed President Muhammadu Buhari to make electronic transmission of results a legal requirement.
They asked the President to simply refuse to sign the bill when it was offered to him, reject it, and send it to the National Assembly for further consideration.
The reactions, however, followed INEC’s widely publicized testimony that it has the capacity to transmit election results in real time from polling units to a central server, despite claims by Professor Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, that the country lacks the capacity for electronic transmission of election results.
This is despite the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, advancing arguments to support the Senate’s position. His defense comes as the passage of the passage on Thursday continues to elicit negative reactions.
The Pan-Igbo organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, among others, spoke out against the National Assembly’s position on electronic election results transmission yesterday.
Benjamin Kalu, the House’s spokesman, stated yesterday that the House’s position was not anti-INEC in any manner.
He went on to say that the conflict was between the NCC, which testified about a lack of competence, and INEC, which countered the commission, not with parliament.
He said: “I will like to place it on record that INEC did not counter the House of Representatives’ position on Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Bill because we allowed INEC discretion to decide when it suits them as an independent, unbiased umpire. There is no interference whatsoever.
“We did not take any position that is against the INEC position. If at all there is any countering that was done, it was between the INEC now and the report of the NCC. NCC is saying they don’t have the capacity and INEC is saying they have the capacity.
“It has nothing to do with the National Assembly. The National Assembly, as long as the House of Representatives is concerned, has given INEC full discretionary powers to do so. May be, they should go to the Senate and clear with Senate on the capacity or otherwise.
“We adopted in full what was proposed to us by that report on the bill and that was what the CSOs asked for. That was what the Nigerian people asked for during the public hearing and we did not change it against all the accusations that we were influenced to sneak it out of the bill and we kept clearing that report. Now, it had been presented and we have seen where the position of Nigerians lies — discretionary powers for an independent organizations such as INEC. We did not whittle those powers down. Those powers were not reduced. We agreed with that proposition.
“So, most people who are raising this propaganda around have not really sat down to interpret the position of this particular Section 52 (2). And I am sure that by tomorrow or so, the House will be coming out with a press release that will clear the real position of the House of Representatives.
“So, we are not being countered by INEC. INEC simply countered NCC and they should sort it out. For us, we have given them the powers. If they have the capacity, let them transmit. If they don’t have the capacity, let them not transmit.
“The only thing we did was to reject a motion that says “shall” should be used to replace “may”. And you know if you do “shall”, it means it’s compulsory; whether or not they can do it, they must do it.
“But here, we are saying, you are independent, look at the various polling units, look at where you have the technological capacity to transmit, you transmit. If you don’t have, you are also open to the manual, you should do that.
“That’s what we passed and the public needs to know that was what we passed. There will be a press release by tomorrow (today) on this, hopefully.”