The upper house of the National Assembly bowed to pressure on Tuesday and did a U- turn on the electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate authorised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine the procedure for the transmission of the results of the general elections.
The amendments were made by the Senate on Tuesday to some clauses of the Electoral (Repeal and Re- enactment) Bill 2021 passed on 15 July 2021.
The Senate said the decision to bring the amended clauses of the Bill for re- submission was taken after a critical review by the Senate Committee on lNEC.
The Senate’ s decision followed a reconsideration of sections 43, 52, 63 and 87 of the previously passed law. The reconsideration procedure, although rarely used, is used to review decisions already made by Parliament.
However, the Senate amended the clause when the bill was referred to a new committee to allow for this, ” 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 House also passed Clause 87, which reads: ” A political party wishing to field candidates for an election under this Bill shall hold direct primaries for candidates for all elective offices, which shall be supervised by the Commission” .
On 15 July 2021, the Senate rejected the recommendation of its committee on INEC to give the electoral body sole responsibility for electronically transmitting election results from polling centres to the relevant collation points.
In an amended section 52, inserted in the bill and debated in the upper chamber, Senator Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North) called for INEC and the National Communications Commission (NCC) to work in cohort in the transmission of election results.
The proposal, however, triggered a debate that led the Red Chamber to pass and amend Section 52, which mandates INEC to transmit election results electronically ” wherever and whenever practicable” .
In a caucus debate on direct primaries and transmission of election results, Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi), who seconded the motion, said direct primaries by political parties will help voters make their choice and reject politicians with money bags.
He said the introduction of direct primaries by political parties will help good politicians to contest elections. ” People of dubious character are elected, ” Aliero said of indirect primaries.
Smart Adeyemi, who deferred the clause, however, said direct primaries should not be introduced in Nigeria and that more money is needed for a good percentage of party members to vote in a primary, adding that direct primaries are cumbersome.
Bamidele Opeyemi (APC Ekiti Central) in his contribution said political parties need direct primaries so that all party members can contribute to the promotion of democracy, ” direct primary is a way of giving power to the people since every member will enjoy that right of selecting a candidate. ”
He said if democracy is to grow, they should adopt a direct mode of primaries, adding that the recommendation in Article 87 (4) states that guidelines for the conduct of primaries should be submitted to INEC.
He explained that paragraph 7 states that every candidate is entitled to receive a copy of the guidelines at least 14 days before the primaries.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who limited the contribution of members of the conference committee to the debate, however, said they should listen and put their proposal to the joint committee.
On his part, Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North) said if people were allowed to vote in the primaries instead of delegates, the candidate who prevailed would know what support he had, adding that nobody should be afraid of direct primaries.
However, the Senate Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia), said clause 52 (3), which deals with electronic transmission of election results, should be clarified to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to decide.
Abaribe said the original bill allowed political parties to decide on the mode of their primaries, adding that political parties capable of organising a direct or indirect primary should do so.
The Senate spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, clarified that the decision was not a U- turn but the need to sanctify and protect votes and the need to provide access to more voters.
Basiru said all that was done was to reaffirm the decisions of the House of Representatives and that the conference committee would meet to discuss the new positions and come up with a harmonious position that would be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval.