…approves direct primaries for political parties
By Haruna Salami
The Senate has taken a dramatic U-Turn on its earlier position of subjecting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC in its opposition to electronic transmission of election results.
Instead, at plenary on Tuesday, the upper chamber said is now INEC to determine the procedure for the transmission of results during the general elections. This was just as it approved direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions. The amendments were made on Tuesday by the Senate to some clauses of the Electoral Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) bill 2021, passed on July 15, 2021. The chamber explained that the decision to subject the amended clauses of the bill to re-committal was reached after critical examination by the Senate Committee on INEC. The chamber added that some fundamental issues which required fresh legislative action were observed by the Senator Kabiru Gaya-led Committee in the bill. Accordingly, the chamber in a motion for re-committal, re-amended certain aspects of the bill contained in Clauses 43, 52, 63 and 87, respectively. The upper chamber in Clause 52 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill passed almost three months ago, had approved that “the Commission (INEC) may consider the electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.” The Senate, however, on Tuesday amended the clause when the bill was subjected to re-committal to provide that, “subject to section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.” The chamber also approved Clause 87 to read “a political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this bill shall hold direct primaries for aspirants to all elective positions, which shall be monitored by the Commission.” Members of the Conference Committee on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, are expected to meet with their counterparts in the House of Representatives to harmonise the two versions passed by both chambers.
Briefing journalists after plenary Senate spokesman, Basiru Ajibola clarified what happened on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday thus:
“Today at the plenary, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi brought a motion based on the report of the Senate Committee on INEC on the need to re-commit four sections of the bill we passed. The re-commital procedure was subject to minor amendment. The amendment was taken in the Committee of the Whole.
“The subject of the amendment are clauses 43, seeking to introduce electronic voting machine as one of the materials that an agent of a political party will be entitled to inspect and also to empower INEC to provide where they have the competence to do so for the election.
“The amendment to section 43 (2) relate to two subsections. Section 43 (1), which now reads the Commission shall provide suitable boxes, electronic voting machine or any voting device for the conduct of election so that this will allow INEC when they have the necessary wherewithal and competence, they don’t need to come back for us to introduce electronic machine as one of the materials they will use for elections.
“It is hoped that this will strengthen them and avoid the situation that happened between Woke and Peterside whereby the Supreme Court did not agree that card reader was part of the requirements of the Electoral Act. Of course, we have amended that provision under the existing law.
“Section 43 (3) was also amended by providing that the polling agent shall be entitled to be present at the distribution of election materials, electronic voting machine and voting devices from the office to the polling units. This will improve transparency of the election.
“The second amendment relates to section 52 of the bill. The initial provision that was adopted by the Senate has 5 subsections, but what we have today has been reduced to 4 subsections. What we did was to amend section 2 of 52 to now read “subject to Section 63 of this bill, voting at an election and transfer of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission. We removed “which may include electronic voting”.
“The understanding is that the procedure determined by the Commission may or may not include electronic voting if they so desire.
“Section 63 (5) was also amended to substitute “transmit” with ‘transfer” of election result after the result has been annouyat the polling unit. The transfer may be physical, electronic or otherwise.
“The last clause that was agreed on today is nomination of candidates by parties for election. The previous position adopted by Senate in Section 87 was “direct or indirect” primary, “but the position taken by Senate today is for direct primary for the purpose of nomination of candidates”, Senator Ajibola concluded.