The Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives have passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which grants approval of the electronic transmission of election results. The approval was given on Tuesday when the lawmakers resumed plenary after a three-week recess.
The passage followed the consideration of the report of the Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on the bill. A seven-man conference committee had been constituted by the Upper chamber to meet with members of the House of Representatives Conference Committee and harmonize the differences in the Senate and House versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. The Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, who headed the Conference Committee in the Senate, presented the report on the harmonized version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
In his presentation, he said that the bill when passed by the National Assembly, and subsequently assented into law by the President, would regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory Elections. He also revealed that the Conference Committee at its retreat, considered and adopted 21 clauses in the bill. “It is imperative to point out that with the successful harmonization of this bill, a process that started from the 7th Assembly through to the 8th National Assembly has now been completed by the 9th National Assembly. The bill is now ready for passage and Presidential assent. I am happy to state that most of what we call ‘citizens top priorities’ on the Electoral Act Amendment, including the use of technology, have been addressed by the Electoral Bill, 2021,” he said.
Recall that earlier this year, the Senate had stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from transmitting election results electronically; stating Section 50(2) of the Electoral Act which completely bans transmission of votes by electronic means. But on the 12th of October, the Senate gave in to pressure and granted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the sole power to determine the mode of transmission of results. Under the new amendment of Clause 52 (2) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate resolved that “voting at an election and transmission of results under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting.”
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), its turning to electronic means is in a bid to ensure that elections are credible. In addition to the use of the Smart Card Reader, to be used along with the Permanent Voters Card, the commission now uses Bimodal Voter Accreditation Device (BVAD) to capture the faces and fingerprints of voters. This device was employed at the just concluded Anambra gubernatorial elections.
While INEC’s use of electronic means is being praised, there are however drawbacks, such as the fact that many rural areas in Nigeria lack access to networks. Consequently, it is not yet certain how much success the commission will achieve with the electronic transmission of election results.