SENATE ON ELECTORAL ACT AMENDMENT: Network coverage to determine e-transmission of results

Provisions of Clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 Thursday tore senators apart along party lines during consideration of the entire report containing 154 clauses.

The clause which, as recommended by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), provides for electronic transmission of election results by INEC where and when practicable, was rejected via an amendment made by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North).

While calling for the amendment through a point of order, Senator Abdullahi added a proviso that such electronic transmission of results by INEC should be subjected to certification of network coverage by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).

 While the clause, as originally recommended by the committee states:  “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable”

The amended version adopted by the Senate after voice votes and votes counted during division states: “INEC may consider electronic transmission of results provided the National Network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).”

 The clause which took Senate about three hours to consider and approve, first created stalemate when Senator Albert Akpan Bassey (PDP Akwa Ibom North East), countered the amendment made by Abdullahi. Bassey Akpan sought for retention of the provision as originally proposed by the committee which was however voted against when put to voice votes as ruled by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

 After the ruling, the Senate was in stalemate for about 15 minutes, which led to a hurried closed door session.

As the lawmakers apparently failed to reach consensus on the matter at the closed door session which lasted about one hour, Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe rose through Order 73 of the Senate Standing Rules to call for division on amendment sought by Senator Akpan.

Although   Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North), and Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), separately made spirited efforts to prevail on Abaribe to withdraw his motion on division, Abaribe however stood his ground for the division and physical counting of votes.

Before the physical voting of the lawmakers’ one after the other on state basis, Senate President persuaded them to vote on ayes and nay basis for and against the two motions.

 Following this, therefore, Clerk of the Senate Ibrahim El-Ladan presided over the election by calling the senators one after the other on state by state basis. 

At the end of the physical voting which lasted about 40 minutes, a total of 80 senators voted, out of which 52 voted for the amendment made by Senator Sabi Abdullahi and 28 voted for original provision of the clause. 

 As announced by the Clerk, 28 senators were absent during the division and voting session.

 While all the 52 senators who voted for the amendment belonged to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 26 out of the 28 Senators who voted against the amendment belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), indicating a party line of voting. 

Ironically, Chairman of Senate Committee on INEC Kabiru Gaya, who presented the report with original provision of clause 52(3), voted against it by saying no to Senator Bassey’s call for its retention.

 All the three senators from Anambra and Ogun states left the chamber at the start of the physical voting, the same way two out of the three lawmakers from Oyo state did.

Those who voted No

On the basis of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ voting for the original provision of the clause , those who voted no were Senators Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North ) , Ishaku Elisha (Adamawa North) , Dahiru Aishatu Binani (Adamawa Central ), Jika Daudu Haliru (Bauchi Central) , Bukachuwa Adamu Muhammad  (Bauchi North) and Degi Eremienyo  (Bayelsa East) .

 Others are Senators Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), Shettima Kashim (Borno Central), Ali Ndume (Borno South) , Stephen Odey (Cross River North) , Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central ), Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North ) , Francis Alimikhena (Edo North) and Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central). 

 The rest are  Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Amos Bulus (Gombe South), Alkali Saidu (Gombe North), Frank Ibezim (Imo North), Hadeija Hassan Ibrahim (Jigawa North East) , Abdul – Kwari Suleiman (Kaduna North) , Uba Sani ( Kaduna Central), Kabiru Gaya (Kano South) , Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North) , Mundiya Bello (Katsina South) and Abdullahi Barkiya (Katsina Central) .

 Others are Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North) , Abdullahi Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) , Oseni Yakubu (Kogi Central) , Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West ), Isah Jibrin (Kogi East ), Lola Ashiru (Kwara South) , Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central).

 Highly surprising within the no category were the Lagos lawmakers, excluding Senator Tokunbo Abiru, who was absent. 

 Also on the ‘no’ list  were , Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West), Tanko Al -Makura (Nasarawa North) , Akwashiki Godiya (Nasarawa South) , Mohammed Sani (Niger East) , Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi (Niger North), Bima Enagi (Niger South) , Robert Boroffice (Ondo North) , Basiru Ajibola (Osun Central) , Adelere Oriolowo ( Osun West ) , Dimka Ayuba( Plateau Central ) , Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East) Yusuf Yusuf (Taraba Central), Isa Shuaibu Lau (Taraba North) Bomai Ibrahim Mohammed (Yobe South) , Sahabi Ya’u (Zamfara North) and Lawali Hassan Anka (Zamfara West) .

 The ‘yes’ senators

Those who voted yes were Senators Adenugba Fadahunsi, Clifford Ordia 

Matthew Urhoghide, Kola Balogun, Gyang Istifanus, George Sekibo, 

Biodun Olujimi, Mpigi Barinada , Betty Apiafi, Abdullahi Danbaba and 

Philip Aduda.

Others are Chukwuka Utazi, Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba, Francis Onyewuchi, Danjuma La’ah, Patrick Akinyelure , Enyinnaya Abaribe etc.

 Reps in fisticuffs

And at the House of Representatives Thursday, members engaged in fisticuffs as tempers rose over disagreement on a clause in the Electoral Act amendment Bill currently being considered.

This was as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila announced invitation of Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmood Yakubu and Executive Vice Chairman Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) Umar Danbatta to appear before the House to offer insights into some of the knotty issues.

Plenary  had earlier turned rowdy when Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, who was presiding over the consideration, gave majority nod to negating voice votes over a proposal that “conduct of elections and transmission of results shall be done electronically”, leading to protest by members who voted in support of the proposal.

However, the House which was initially billed to proceed on its summer holiday  Thursday, was forced to suspend the consideration until 10am today (Friday), during which the INEC and NCC bosses will appear, as it became obvious no progress could be made beyond clause 52 of the over 150-clause Bill.

While Wase made moves after the session was reverted to plenary from the Committee of the Whole to report what transpired.

However, some members got provoked when he added the controversial clause as what had been adopted. The shouting bouts between opposing members was to degenerate into physical attacks.

The consideration of the Electoral Act amendment report was smoothly progressing until clause 52 was mentioned.

At this point, Deputy Minority Leader Toby Okechukwu proposed an amendment to the effect that the “conduct of election and transmission of results shall be done electronically.”

Same proposal was seconded by Deputy Whip Nkiruka Onyejeocha, after which Deputy Speaker Wase, who chairs the committee of the whole put question for voice votes.

He had earlier expressed opinion that there were places where GSM network may not be accessed.

His ruling that the “nays have it” against the thunderous ayes instantly threw the House into uproar with members accusing him of bias.

Even at the return of a seeming normalcy, he insisted that if the electronic voting and transmission of results was adopted, “What happens to our brothers in Yobe and Maiduguri where the masts are down?”

After about an hour of no progress due to the disagreement, it took the intervention of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to address his colleagues on the need to continue the process this morning.

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