The Senate on Friday said its decision on the provision of section 52 (3) of the Electoral Act Amendment was in the interest of the democratic development.

The Senate Spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, said this in Abuja during a “Stakeholders’ reflection roundtable on Electoral Reform” organised by Yiaga Africa.

According to him, the concern of INEC on Electoral Act is addressed as Section 68 (1) has given the commission power to review election results that were declare under duress.

“On the electronic transmission of results, I want to disagree with INEC, disagree with Yiaga Africa and also disagree with our colleagues in the House of Representatives. The provision of section 52 (3) as provided in the Senate version is not without constitutional support.

“The commission is to consider the electronic transmission of results provided the national coverage is adequate and secure by the NCC as approved by the National Assembly. The argument that INEC is independent in section 78 of the constitution standout. But paragraph 22 of the exclusive legislative list which is in section four of the constitution gives the National Assembly power to make laws and include the power to decide the mode of election. That is why section 52 stated that there should be open secret ballot.

“INEC can now use it procedure to conduct the election to include electronic voting. But the argument on the electronic transmission of results which was brought by the Kabiru Gaya led committee, which was approved by the House of Representatives reads that the commission will transmit the election results by electronic means where and when practicable.

“Where and when practicable is nebulous, vague and give evil discretion. In a local government, the mood for transmission of election results can vary.

“We feel that why should we leave this important aspect to the discretion of the commission. In fact, by article 52 we are meant to make laws. If INEC is totally Independent, there will be no need for us to make electoral law. But the conference is coming and we won’t do what will bring injury to the electoral process.”

Speaking earlier, the Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Ms. Cynthia Mbamalu, said the leadership of the National Assembly should immediately constitute a Conference Committee to harmonise the different versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by both chambers.

She said that the lawmakers should ensure clause 52 (3) reflect electronic transmission of election results as INEC has showed that is ready to transmit the election results electronically.

Mbamalu said that the version of the House of Representatives should be adopted to enable INEC to do their work.

“If you give power to NCC to decide for INEC to transmit the election results electronically, it is unconstitutional because the constitution said INEC is independent. The version that should be adopted should allow INEC to use any electronic device to Conduct election.

“We don’t have time. We don’t want the incident of 2018 to be repeated where the president declined assent to the bill,” Mbamalu said.

She, however, agreed that the Senate version of clause 43 that recognizes ‘voting devices’ alongside election materials, and clause 49 that recognizes ‘other technological devices alongside Smart Card Readers for voter accreditation and Clauses 63 and 76 which increases the penalty for sanctioning a presiding officer who contravenes the Electoral Act with respect to counting of and accounting for votes, announcement of results should be adopted’.

The Yiaga Africa, official said the House of Representatives version on Clause 52 that gives INEC the power to determining the procedure for voting and transmission of elections results should be adopted and that the Senate proposal is problematic and unconstitutional.

She also urged the executive to as a matter of urgency assent to the bill as soon as it is transmitted by the legislature to avoid a repeat of the 2018 scenario.

Also speaking, INEC Director of Legal Department, Oluwatosin Babalola, said that as the main regulatory body, they recognised some lacuna in the electoral law and recommended 98 amendments but not all were considered.

She said the motive of making the recommendations for the amendment of the electoral act was to strengthen the electoral process and help Nigerians to have confidence in the process.

“The present bill is to give us legal backing for the use of card reader. The bill is not giving us the right to transmit election results electronically,” Babalola said.

She noted that the inability of INEC to take firm control of the electoral process because of the lacunas has made them to issue 111 certificates of return, as a result of court orders on elections.

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