In the light of the massive rejection of the electronic transmission of votes nationwide by the representatives of the people at the senate, the Independent National Electoral Commission has vehemently reacted. It said Transmitting electoral results electronically is realistic, bright and innovative.
The Commission reiterated this on Saturday through its National Commissioner and Chairman (Information and Voter Education), Festus Okoye. it also boasted, bragged on the belief it has in the tests carried out by its joint Committee comprising telecommunication giants while fielding questions from Punch.
INEC being passionate about working more on the technological debt electoral activities are predicated on in Nigeria has employed some innovative, creative and developmental initiatives overtime. This is in its bid to reduce the level of the interference by humans in electoral activities.
Okoye said, “INEC has the capacity to transmit election results from the polling units to the Registration Area Collation Centres to the Local Government Collation Centres, the various state, federal and senatorial district collation centres, and the state and national collation centres.
“The Joint Technical Committee constituted by the commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission and made of telecommunication operators met on March 9, 2018, and the consensus was that the requirements for the electronic transfer of results proposed by INEC is practicable. The meeting, therefore, agreed that the solution that INEC wants to deploy is possible.
“We have the assurance of the service providers that they have provided similar technological solutions to other agencies and have the capacity to deploy technology to cover a few blind spots.
“The commission will continue to pilot different solutions bearing in mind that technology is dynamic and can limit human interference in the electoral process. The commission wants broad powers to deploy technology and is not in favour of a particular solution being written into the law.
“The commission is a creation of the constitution and the law and its powers are derived from the constitution. The constitution has also given the National Assembly the power to make laws but such powers must not be in conflict with and or at variance with the provisions of the constitution.
“We will continue to implement the provisions of the Electoral Act to the extent of its consistency with the constitution, as the constitution is the fundamental law of the land. The commission will continue to build integrity and trust in the electoral process.
“The commission has piloted and continues to pilot various electronic solutions that will improve the integrity of the electoral process. Presently, all the registered political parties upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates electronically.”
Okoye in furtherance of his speech said there will need be a review of the status quo as polling agents will have to be registered online by their parties. Domestic observers, including the media have always been registering electronically in other to be actively involved in the process.
He said, “The commission uploads Form EC8A, being polling unit results to a central viewing portal. Since 2020, the commission has been uploading these results from different parts of the country.
“The commission has used and will continue to use the existing technology to upload the results from polling units. The commission has uploaded results from polling units in Southern Ijaw with its difficult riverine and difficult terrain. The commission uploaded results from areas that are only accessible through human carriers.
“The commission uploaded results from conflict areas. The commission uploaded results from all geopolitical zones. Presently, the commission has obtained the GPS coordinates of all the 176,846 polling units in the country and expanded voter access to the polling units.
“Currently, the commission is carrying out part of the continuous voter registration exercise online, while the physical registration of voters will be done using INEC Voter Enrolment Device that will capture the fingerprints and facials of registrants.”
The House of Representatives on the other hand passed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, holding tight to clause 52(2) amidst agitations and counters by minority groups.
The purport of the bill is to vest the discretion to determine when to employ the E-transmission process with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Femi Gbajabiamala, the Speaker of the House of Representatives on going through the bill said the policy will not really work, not even when Nigeria is not ripe for it.
“I want to use this opportunity to talk to people out there … We all want electronic transmission of results, but based on the information from experts, it is not as easy as it sounds. We must get our electoral process right and when the time is right, we can come back and amend the law.
“So, I don’t think that electronic voting is feasible right now. What we have been talking about is electronic transmission, and from what we have been told today (Friday), we need to do more work so that everybody’s vote will be counted,” he said.
At the termination of the voting session at the red chamber, it was decided that the NCC has the authority to proclaim on the feasibility of the electronic transfer system.
Nigerians were angry at the rejection of the bill, majority actually saw the bright side of the innovation and were expecting it to scale through the Senate and House of Representatives.
The position of the governor of Sokoto State was not totally different from the one adduced by Nigerians. He faulted the decision to vest the NCC with the right to determine the best time to practice the E-transmission system.
He described the Senate’s decision as “unconstitutional,” saying the mode of conducting elections and the transmission of votes should be left with INEC.
“The decision of the Senate to subject INEC constitutional power to conduct elections to the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Assembly is patently unconstitutional. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 78 of the Constitution provides that ‘the registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission.’
“In the Third Schedule, Part 1, F, S.15: INEC has the power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections. The constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.
“Unquestionably, the mode of election and transmission are critical parts of the conduct, supervision, undertaking, and organisation of elections in Nigeria. Of course, the National Assembly has the power to flesh out the legal framework but that has to be consistent with the Constitution,” Tambuwal said in a statement.