By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Ahead of 2023 general elections, political parties and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have described the decision of the National Assembly to reject electronic transmission of election results in the ongoing amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act, as laying a foundation to compromise the outcome of 2023 general elections.
Speaking exclusively to Peoples Daily, the political stakeholders called on Nigerians to reject the decision, even as they observed that the lawmakers failed to approve the controversial Clause 52(3) because many of them are aware that they have performed below the expectation of Nigerians to merit re-election under a free, credible election.
Recall that the Senate on Thursday, while considering the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, voted that “The Commission(INEC) 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.”
Speaking on the issue, the chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Leonard Nzenwa, said the decision is a bad omen for Nigeria’s democracy. He said the rejection is a clear indication that the federal lawmakers are not democrats, but selfish leaders who only think about themselves.
“It shows that they don’t want credible elections in Nigeria. They are afraid of being pushed out of National Assembly through election, but Nigerians will strategise on the way forward and wait for them.”
The IPAC boss said the only driving force in their decision to reject the electronic transmission of election results was to protect their selfish interest, adding that among many political interests such as party, tribal, regional, State, the interest of the citizens remains topmost.
Nzenwa, who is also the chairman of African Action Congress (AAC), said with this rejection, they will continue to propagate thuggery and election rigging across the country, asking if POS can work in every community in Nigeria, what will stop INEC from transmitting election results electronically.
“INEC has said it has the capability to transmit election results electronically, what else do they want to approve it. It is simply for their selfish interest. It worked in Edo and Ondo States and everybody was happy, why now reject it”, he said.
Speaking in the same vein, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the immediate implication is that the lawmakers are preparing grounds to rig the 2023 general election.
“They don’t want a free, fair and peaceful election in Nigeria in 2023 and the implication is that it will lead to violence because Nigerians are now prepared to face them, because of the hardship in Nigeria and the bad governance.
“Why transfer the independence of INEC to NCC. In the coming days, Nigerians will rush to the Courts to challenge that decision, it will not stand”, Onwubiko said.
While pointing out that the rationale behind the rejection is self preservation, pointing out that 75% of the federal lawmakers were never elected on a free and fair election, hence they know they will not return in 2023 if there is a credible election where election results are electronically transmitted by INEC.
“Nigerians are disenchanted because of the insecurity and hardship in the country and it will be battle front in future election. They know they can’t win in 2023 because they have abandoned their Constituents since they came to the National Assembly, that is why they could vote against their interest”, he said.
Similarly, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), in its position, asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to assent to the Bill when presented to him by the National Assembly.
He said National Assembly maintains lead as worst enemy of Nigerian democracy, noting that “withholding assent will be the only proof that Mr. President is not part of the conspiracy to undermine the country’s electoral process”.
“Members of the National Assembly have remained number one enemy of Nigeria’s democracy and a major hindrance to conscious efforts to progressively deepen Nigerian democracy to enhance good governance”, the CNPP Secretary General, Willy Ezugwu, said in a statement.
“It did not come as a surprise that the leadership of the National Assembly is standing against the popular wish of Nigerians on a transparent electoral processes.
“We are yet to come out of the shock of the activities of the All Progressives Congress (APC) dominated National Assembly, filled with lawmakers who have now clearly towed the path of undermining our electoral process by rejecting the demands of Nigerians across board for electronic transmission of election results even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has effectively tested the electronic transmission of election results at both Edo and Ondo states governorship elections.
“All Nigerians who hoped that the National Assembly, especially the Senate, would vote for an improvement in the country’s electoral process in a manner that will lead to freer, fairer and more credible process for the sake of good governance and the rule of law.
“Clearly, the plot to subject INEC’ constitutional power to conduct elections to the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Assembly will be contested in court if Mr. President decides to go with the enemies of democracy and signed the amendment into law”, CNPP said.
Also, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) said the party is in support of the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act amendment Bill.
National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Oye, said that electronic collation of results would have eliminated election rigging to a great extent,
Oye who spoke on development said the party supported the inclusion of the provision for electronic voting and results transmission hundred percent.
He said allowing electronic transmission of results would have check the usual manipulation and hijack of election results sheets in transit by political thugs.
“Since we are accepting electronic voting, we will also do electronic collation of results. It will help to curb election malpractice and rigging. I think those working against its inclusion in the Electoral Act amendment Bill are mischievous.
“Generality of Nigerians support electronic transmission of election results and APGA stands by it and supports it hundred percent,” he said.
In a related development, the national Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), Hon. Adekunle Rufai Omoaje, fielding questions from Peoples Daily, said not providing for E-Transmission of election results in 2023 means that the lawmakers are afraid of failure.
He said majority of the lawmakers did not perform up to the expectations of Nigerians since they came to office in 2019. He said if they do not have opportunity to rig the 2023 election, many of them will not return to the National Assembly.
“The electric transfer of election results will not allow rigging again. INEC has said it has the capability, why challenge their autonomy. If NCC wants to ensure network coverage in all the polling units before 2023, they will do it. The plan is to rig 2023. It has been tested in Edo and Ondo, and it can be done anywhere”, Omoaje said.
Also speaking, the People Democratic Party (PDP), said the National Assembly has murdered democracy in Nigeria.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, “it is outrageous that the APC and its Senators, in their desperate bid to annex the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seek to route a statutorily independent commission to the approval of an individual masquerading in the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC); an agency under executive control in addition to an extra endorsement of the legislature, before conducting elections.
“The decision of the APC Senators therefore amounts to a suspension of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which is a recipe for crisis that could derail our democracy and destabilize our nation.
“It is, to say the least, a preparation for mass rigging of elections across Nigeria by the APC, which must be firmly resisted”, he said.