By Chimezie Godfrey
The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room has called for the adoption of the Senate version of Clause 43, which recognizes voting devices alongside election materials.
The Convener, Situation Room, and Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi made the call at a press conference on Monday in Abuja, said this is because the Senate inserted the words “and voting devices” immediately after election materials.
She recalled that the National Assembly Harmonisation Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives sets for its conference on the Electoral Bill harmonisation, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and the EU-SDGN implementing partners call for a dispassionate, selfless decision-making process during the harmonisation.
According to her, Nigerians have expressed their expectations for an Electoral Act, 2021, that will endure personal, partisan and primordial considerations.
Obi noted that notwithstanding the landmark proposals in the ongoing review process, civil society partners and key stakeholders have identified about 17 points of divergence in the versions of the of the Elections Act Amendment Bill passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. Amongst which are: the use of Smart Card Readers; the deployment of electronic voting, collation and transmission of results; the cost of campaigns and the process of nomination of candidates etc.
She also said that as civil society community and as expressed by a vast majority of electoral stakeholders and Nigerians, they are concerned by these identified differences in the proposals particularly regarding electronic transmission of results and the deployment of technological devices in the conduct of elections.
She pointed out that following from their experience and observations of elections in recent years, as well as widely held views of Nigerians, they expect the harmonisation committee to accept the version of the Electoral Bill that allows the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine the mode of conduct of elections, including transmission of results.
According to her, this experience has been proven during several off-cycle elections in recent years. Indeed, INEC has expanded its use of technology, including using the Z-pad and now, its newest innovation, the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
She further pointed out that the version of the bill that stipulates the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recommendation and National Assembly approval before election results can be transmitted electronically, presents a constitutional breach that may result in long-drawn litigations and uncertainty which could put INEC’s preparations for elections in jeopardy.
She therefore recommended that the Harmonisation Committee adopt the Senate version of Clause 43, which recognizes “voting devices” alongside election materials, among others.
Obi said,”In this light, our key recommendations for the Harmonisation Committee are as follows: . Adopt the Senate version of Clause 43, which recognizes “voting devices” alongside election materials. This is because the Senate inserted the words “and voting devices” immediately after election materials.
“Adopt the Senate version of Clause 49, which recognizes “other technological devices” alongside “Smart Card Readers” for voter accreditation. INEC should be given the power to deploy an effective and efficient technological device for accrediting voters during elections. For example, INEC tested the new Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during the Isoko South 1 Constituency bye election into Delta State House of Assembly and plans to deploy same in subsequent elections.
“Adopt the House of Representatives Version of Clause 52, which gives INEC the power to determine the procedure for voting and transmission of election results. The power to determine the procedure for transmission of results should be vested with INEC without interference from any individual or government agency. This position safeguards INEC’s independence.
“Adopt the Senate Version of Clauses 63 and 76 which increases the penalty for sanctioning a presiding officer who contravenes the Electoral Act concerning the proper counting of accounting for votes and the announcement of results. We believe that sanctions should place high retributive demand (financial or otherwise) on the offender, in order to discourage electoral offences.
“Adopt the Senate version of clause 87, which gives political parties the option to adopt either direct or indirect primaries. The focus should be on strict adherence to the guidelines for each mode of party primary adopted.
“We will continue to follow up with the Harmonisation Committee’s work and do urge it to act in the best national interest and devoid of short-term political intrigues and calculations.”
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria numbering more than seventy. The Steering Committee is made up of: Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Women and Adolescent Empowerment, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), African Centre for Entrepreneurship and Information Development (ACEIDEV), Justice Development and Peace Commission (JPDC) Nnewi, ASPILOS Foundation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Mac-Jim Foundation, Kimpact Development Initiative, Democratic Action Group (DAG), Women’s Rights to Education Programme, EDO CSOs, Young Innovators and Vocational Training Initiative (YVITI), New Initiative for Social Development (NISD).
Other groups are Centre LSD, CISLAC, WARD-C, Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI), Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, JDPC, Yiaga Africa, Development Dynamics, Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), Stakeholder Democracy Network, Human Rights Monitor, Reclaim Naija, CITAD, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR,) Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), Electoral Hub etc
The EU-SDGN aims to contribute to the reinforcement of democracy in Nigeria through building strong, effective and legitimate democratic institutions. It is being implemented from 2017 to 2021, accompanying the 2016-2019 electoral cycle, and is anchored on the priorities of the Nigerian government following the recommendations of Election Observation Mission from previous General Elections particularly the 2015 elections.
Implementing partners of the EU SDGN are: Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Yiaga Africa, The Institute for Media and Society (IMS), The International Press Centre, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), BBC Media Action, CLEEN Foundation, Westminster for Democracy (WFD), The Albino Foundation, Nigeria Women Trust Fund and the National Peace Committee (NPC).