The trend, the world over, is a deliberate shift from manual voting to electronic voting, also called e-voting.
The United States of America, Canada, almost the whole of Europe, parts of Asia and some parts of the Americas, have adopted e-voting while in Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia have shown evidence of using e-voting for some time now.
Following noticeable flaws in the 2010 Electoral Act, civil society groups have been pressing for amendments to the Act. With the on-going consideration for amendment of the Electoral Act, Nigeria has a golden opportunity to strengthen the electoral process, boost voter confidence as well as clean up its electoral system but some powers that be are doing everything to thwart such well-intentioned efforts and drag the country back by several years.
The Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in its report of the Electoral Act Amendment draft bill, had proposed in Section 52(3), that “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable, and at its discretion”.
During plenary on Wednesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 15, contrary to every expectation, rather than voting in favour of the provision for e-transmission of election results, the Senate caused a change of the sub-section to now read,”the Commission may consider electronics transmission of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secured by the National Communication Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly”.
E-transmission is simply the imputing of the election result onto the card reader for onward transmission to the INEC server. So, why is the Senate bringing in the NCC to further complicate issues? Besides, by arrogating unto itself the power to approve before e-transmission can be deployed, the Senate is interfering with the functions of INEC and undermining its independence, as stipulated in section 78 of the 1999 Constitution which states that “the registration of voters and the conduct of the elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission”.
At the green chamber, Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who is the chairman of the Committee of the Whole, presided over the clause by clause consideration of the Electoral Amendment draft bill.
Proceedings were however stalled when the members of the House of Representatives got to Section 52(3). There was disagreement as to whether the INEC should adopt e-transmission of election results or not.
A voice vote was taken and the presiding officer, Wase ruled in favour of those who voted for “No”, when clearly the “Ayes” was louder. This did not go down well with those who voted for INEC to adopt e-transmission.
By the provisions of Order 11, Rule 2, under such a situation the presiding officer should divide the House but Wase refused to comply, even when there were shouts, across party lines, for him to do so. The Honourable members who had voted for the inclusion of e-transmission protested; the session became rowdy and stormy, and proceedings were adjourned indefinitely.
Nigerdeltaconnect gathered that Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who made it clear that he was speaking not as a member of PDP, APC or any other party for that matter but as the spokesman of the House, confirmed that the voices for e-transmission were louder.
He said the right thing to do under such a situation was for the presiding officer, Wase, to have listened to the voice of the people and divide the House.
A member of the House of Representatives Committee on INEC, Tajudeen Yusuf also confirmed the “Ayes” were in the majority but were brazenly denied by Wase for whatever reason!
He said in various interactions between officials of INEC and his Committee, the electoral umpire had repeatedly said while e-voting may be difficult for now, INEC can certainly handle e-transmission of 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.
It is a known fact that with electronic transmission of election results, political thuggery, election rigging, vote buying, collation manipulation and ballot box as well as result sheet snatching while in transit to collation centres, will be highly reduced.
E-transmission will improve the pace of collation and also neutralise the power of collation officers to tamper with, and influence election results.
In addition, e-transmission is secure, fast, cost effective and also confers integrity and credibility on the electoral process.
With the bare-face, daylight robbery allegedly perpetrated by Hon. Wase, you would want to ask; who is afraid of e-transmission with all its attendant advantages over manual collation of results?
Anybody or group that is against electronic transmission of election results has only one thing in mind and that is to rig elections.
If President Muhammadu Buhari wants his name to go down in history as a democrat, Patriot and a true leader, he must stand on the side of history by refusing to give assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Biil if e-transmission of election results, is not included.