Senators elected under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have voted against granting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the sole power to transmit election results via electronic means.
The APC senators voted for the controversial twist after the Electoral Act (2010) Amendment Bill passed the third reading during plenary on Thursday.
Senator Kabiru Gaya, Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, had presented the committee’s report, which recommended in Section 52(3) that INEC “may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable”.
However, during the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, the Deputy Senate Whip, proposed that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must certify that national coverage is adequate and secure and that the National Assembly must grant approval before INEC can transmit results electronically.
The proposal 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.”
According to members of the Senate Committee on Communications, the NCC had declared that only 43 per cent of the country was currently under effective telecommunications coverage.
But Senator Albert Bassey, the lawmaker representing Akwa Ibom North-East Senatorial District, opposed the amendment, insisting that the initial proposal made by the committee should be retained.
Senator Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, however, ruled in favour of the amendment when he conducted a voice vote.
This led to a commotion on the floor of the upper chambers with lawmakers openly disagreeing over the issue, with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the Senate Minority Leader, making a case for a division that would require individual voting on the floor.
The Senate President sustained Abaribe’s point of order and called for a division.
The Senate eventually retained Abdullahi’s amendment after a 52-28 vote.
The outcome of the election showed that 52 APC senators, including the chairman of the Senate INEC committee, Kabiru Gaya, voted against the panel’s report, which gives the electoral umpire the sole power to determine the practicability of electronic transmission of results.
Meanwhile, all senators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) voted in favour of electronic transmission of results by INEC without interference from either the NCC or the National Assembly.
The Senate subsequently passed the electoral act amendment bill and will now wait for the approved version of the House of Representatives to harmonise it before transmitting it to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
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