Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Senate, Reps May Clash Over E-Transmission Of Results

The House of Representatives has constituted a seven-member conference committee on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who announced the constitution of the committee at the commencement of plenary yesterday, named Adeyemi Raphael (APC, Ekiti), as the chairman.

Like the Senate, five of the House committee members are from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The remaining two are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers.

They are: Unyime Idem (PDP, Akwa Ibom), Ahmad Abdullahi Kalambiana (APC, Sokoto), Blessing Onu (APC, Benue), Emeka Chris Azubogu (PDP, Anambra), Abiodun Faleke (APC, Lagos) and Aishatu Dukku (APC, Gombe).

The Senate conference committee constituted last week is chaired by the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya as chairman.

Both committees are mandated to harmonise contentious sections in the bill

Different versions were passed by both chambers amid sharp divisions among lawmakers over clause 52 of the bill, which seeks the introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process.

Clause 52(3) provides for electronic transmission of results from polling units.

The joint committee on INEC that worked on the bill had recommended that “The commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”

But the Senate, during consideration and passage of the bill, changed the section to read “The commission (INEC) may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.”

However, the House retained what was recommended by the committee.

As the proceeding continued, James Faleke (APC, Lagos) proposed another amendment that “election results may be transmitted both electronically and manually.”

This was roundly rejected by lawmakers when it was put to a voice vote. But the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, overruled leading to another round of stormy session.

Amid the disagreement, the House resolved to invite Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) officials to brief it on the state of network coverage nationwide.

The NCC officials explained that there were network coverage limitations in some places which may hinder the transmission of results electronically.

They also said no network is 100% secure, as such it may be prone to hacking and manipulation of electronically transmitted results by the electoral body.

After their submission to the House, members failed to reach a common ground as the PDP lawmakers staged a walkout.

The House subsequently passed the bill with a caveat, leaving INEC with options of transmitting results electronically “where and when practicable.”

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