Elections remain one of the most fundamental aspects of democracy. Equally important is the electoral process that leads to the emergence of elected public officials. This is so because it guarantees the citizens the right to freely elect their leaders without any fear or intimidation.
It is because of this prime position that elections occupy in any democracy that people are prepared to fight against anything that impedes, or even attempts to impede, the electoral process. The protests and political unrest that greeted the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election by General Ibrahim Babangida, is still fresh in our memories.
It was no wonder therefore the country was almost torn apart in July this year when the Nigerian Senate, against popular will, attempted to attach unacceptable conditions to the electronic transmission of election results.
While considering the report on the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 submitted by its Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday July 14 and Thursday July 15, 2021, the Senate amended clause 52(3) as recommended by the Committee.
The clause, as presented by the Committee read thus, “INEC can transmit election results electronically where and when practicable, and at its discretion” but the Senate amended it to read “INEC may consider electronic transmission of election results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secured by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly”
By arrogating unto itself the power to give approval before e-transmission can be deployed, the Senate was trying to interfere with the functions of INEC and undermining its independence as stipulated in section 78 of the 1999 Constitution.
Expectedly, the action by the Senate triggered public outcry and since then the Red Chamber has been in the eye of the storm. The Senate has been under attack and severe criticism from Nigerians who are wondering why the All Progressives Congress (APC) — dominated Senate is afraid of electronic transmission of election results even when INEC had repeatedly said it can handle e-transmission of election results.
It will be recalled that in the September 19, and October 10, 2020 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively, e-transmission of results was deployed and the outcome is there for all to see and INEC was commended for the feat.
Fortunately, the Senate has seen reason and has bowed to pressure as it has said the INEC can transmit election results electronically. The upper chamber, on Tuesday, October 12, passed a bill to rescind its earlier decision which subjected the INEC to seek approval from the Nigerian Communication Commission before it could transmit election results electronically. The new Bill is titled “Recommital of amended clauses of a bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Bill 2021 and enact the Electoral Act 2021”.
The sub-section in question now reads, “Subject to section 63 of this Bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under the Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by INEC, which may include electronic voting”.
This is a step in the right direction and the Senate deserves commendation for its courage in rescinding its unpopular earlier decision. The inclusion of e-transmission of election results comes with a lot of advantages. For instance, it will strengthen the electoral process and boost voter confidence.
It will greatly reduce election rigging, political thuggery and collation manipulation. Snatching of result sheet and ballot box will be a thing of the past. Electronic transmission will quicken the pace of collation and also neutralize the power of collation officers to tamper with election results and in the process influence the outcome of elections.
In addition, e-transmission of election results is fast, secure and cost effective. It also confers integrity and credibility on the electoral process.