Strange and bewildering best describes the drama that greeted the rowdy session that led to the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill where, what the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) feared most, played out in the Senate: the non-passage of the clause for the electronic transmission of election results from voting centres. CSOs had feared that lawmakers and their leadership were not predisposed to passing electronic transmission of results, and said so.
They also spoke after the passage stating that the passed amended bill is sending out a dangerous signal to Nigerians and the world that the APC led government is not prepared to hold transparent elections devoid of manipulation.
The 26 groups, which spoke, urged Nigerians to hold every Senator and House of Representatives member that voted against the independence of INEC to decide on Electronic Transmission of Results responsible because it is a legislative coup against free, fair, credible and transparent elections.
According to them, the nebulous and controversial Section 52 (3) which states that ‘before INEC can transmit electronically, NCC must adjudge national coverage is adequate and secure, and National Assembly must approve,’ is in conflict with Section 78 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and therefore it is a nullity.
The clause was dumped for an amendment that was neither here not there in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives, also after a rowdy session, members resolved to listen to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Yakubu Mahmood; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Communications Commission to aid a final decision.
In the Senate, members voted along party lines, with the members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), including the Chairman of the Committee that processed the bill voting against the recommendation of his committe.
During a clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, the Upper House approved electronic transmission of results during elections, provided that such areas are adjudged by the Nigeria Communications Commission to be adequately covered under its national coverage and approved by the National Assembly.
The Committee in its recommendation initially prescribed that, “The Commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
The Senate’s approval came following an amendment to Clause 52(3) by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) during consideration of a report by the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The amendment was seconded by Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South).
The committee’s recommendation, however, was amended by the Deputy Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi to read, “The Commission may consider electronic transmission of results, provided the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the National Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.”
Senators Sabi Abdullahi and Ali Ndume argued that the blanket recommendation by the Committee for electronic transmission of results in all parts of the country would deprive some Nigerians resident in areas with weak or without network coverage from participating in the electoral process.
According to the lawmakers, in order to ensure fairness and inclusiveness for the electorates, particularly in rural areas, an all inclusive provision must be accommodated in the Electoral Act to protect their participation and votes during elections.
Sabi Abdullahi’s amendment received a favorable ruling by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, when subjected to a voice vote.
However, lawmakers such as Enyinnaya Abaribe, Thompson Sekibo and Albert Bassey Akpan, who belong to the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) disagreed with Senators Sabi Abdullahi and Ndume, insisting that the previous recommendation be retained.
Bassey’s counter amendment, which insisted for retention of the Committee’s recommendation as captured in clause 52 sub-clause 3, nevertheless suffered rejection when put to a voice vote by the Senate President.
The Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while citing order 73 of the Senate Rule, called for a division.
In a bid to avert going down the path of a division, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North) prevailed on his colleagues in the PDP to rescind their earlier call.
A defiant Abaribe refused all entreaties for him to withdraw the point of order, despite attempts by his colleagues to sway members of the minority party during a closed session that followed and lasted almost 20 minutes.
Rising from the closed session, Abaribe demanded that the contentious clause be revisited despite a couple of further appeal by the Senate President for the upper chamber to continue with the consideration of the report.
Sensing the Minority Leader’s refusal to shift grounds, the Senate President approved the request for division amidst calls for voting on the amendment put forward by Senator Akpan.
Out of a total of 80 Senators present, 52 Senators on the platform of the APC voted for the retention of the ‘Sabi Abdullahi Amendment’, while 28 who belonged to the opposition PDP voted for the ‘Bassey Amendment’.
28 Senators were absent during plenary.
After the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate President, in his remarks said, “We have achieved what we have set for ourselves because of our commitment.
“We would all recall that at the beginning of the Ninth Senate, we resolved to have a legislative agenda.
“[And] in out legislative agenda, the Petroleum Industry Bill and amendment of the Electoral Act 2010, are pillars of what we have set for ourselves to do.
“Today, we have achieved those two issues.
“Secondly, the Electoral Act amendment, we have gone through a serious and probably torturous process to reach where we have by passing it.
“There was no victor, no vanquished in this affair. Everyone did what he or she did for the full commitment and realization that what we want is one and the same thing, but the path we have taken are different.
“We want an electronic transmission system for our electoral process, however, we want to ensure that no Nigerian is disenfranchised in this process, and time will definitely come when all part of Nigeria will have the coverage that we all need to deploy our technology to ensure electronic transmission of election results.
“This has come to settle the issue of what INEC can do and what INEC cannot. We have given INEC an electoral Act amended to enhance its performance.”
The Senate after the passage of the bill, adopted the Votes and Proceedings and adjourned till 14th of September, 2021 for its annual recess.
How Senators voted
SENATORS VOTE ON ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF ELECTION RESULTS (28 Senators absent)
Robert Ajayi Boroffice YES
Surajudeen Basiru NO
Adenugba Fadahunsi YES
Clifford Ordia YES
Matthew Urhoghide YES
Francis Alimikhena NO
Kola Balogun YES
Ezekiel Ayuba NO
Abubakar Kyari NO
Gyang Istifanus YES
Senator Gyagung Ladi NO
George Sekibo YES
Ali Ndume NO
Opeyemi Bamidele NO
Biodun Olujimi YES
Mpigi Barinada YES
Betty Apiafi YES
Gobir Abdullahi NO
Abdullahi Danbaba NO
Philip Aduda YES
Chukwuka Utazi YES
Mohammed Goje NO
Yusuf Yusuf NO
Isa Shuaibu Lau NO
Mohammed Goje NO
Bomai Ibrahim Mohammed NO
Francis Onyewuchi YES
Yau Sahabi NO
Uba Sani NO
Danjuma La’ah YES
Kabiru Gaya NO
Ishaku Elisha Abo NO
Baba Kaita NO
Adamu Aliero NO
Yahaya Abdullahi NO
Yakubu Oseni NO
Isa Jibrin NO
Smart Adeyemi NO
Ibrahim Oloriegbe NO
Oluremi Tinubu NO
Solomon Adeola NO
Tanko Al-Makura NO
Godiya Akwashiki NO
Abdullahi Adamu NO
Musa Mohammed Sani NO
Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi NO
Bima Enagi NO
Patrick Akinyelure YES
Breakdown of the figures of votes on Electronic Transmission of election results.
TOTAL VOTES: 80
TOTAL NO. OF REGISTERED SENATORS: 109
Announced by the Clerk of Senate and validated by the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad I. Lawan.