As the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) tables its report on the 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 tomorrow, All Progressives Congress (APC) senators are set to delegitimise future elections and undermine the nation’s democracy with their insistence on prohibiting electronic transmission of results, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY had reported mounting concerns over what social critics called attempts by federal legislators to rig the 2023 general election ahead of time through the manipulation of the amendment bill 2021.
This was based on a claim that a clause prohibiting electronic transmission of results had been surreptitiously inserted into the draft bill, drawing widespread rejection of the alleged clause by stakeholders, including 22 civil society organisations.
However, following the public outcry, members of the committee had met and denied the existence of the prohibition clause.
THISDAY had, however, reported that the Senate committee had bowed to public pressure and had decided to insert a clause authorizing INEC to use electronic transmission of results whenever and wherever practicable.
The attempt to tamper with the draft electoral law had also attracted the attention of the diplomatic community, which met last week with the leadership of the National Assembly and followed up with a private letter appealing to the lawmakers to do all within their powers to deepen democracy through the current effort at amending the Electoral Act.
This development followed an uproar generated by reports that there was an attempt by a section of the National Assembly leadership to smuggle certain clauses into the draft electoral law banning the electronic transfer of election results, even though the same section agreed to an electronic voting system.
THISDAY, however, gathered at the weekend that the lawmakers who are opposed to the electronic transmission of results have not given up and are mobilising to shoot down the clause at plenary.
It was also gathered that the lawmakers, who are largely from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are mobilising to ensure that voice vote would be used to pass certain clauses in the bill to ensure manipulation of lawmakers’ decision.
But those in favour of electronic transmission of elections, who are largely from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are also said to be mobilising to ensure the retention of the clause by resisting the use of voice vote.
The opposition lawmakers are said to be strategising to ensure that the lawmakers adopt the division method of voting, which is difficult to manipulate.
THISDAY gathered that the APC has mobilised its members to ensure the defeat of the controversial clauses during the passage of the draft electoral law.
It was learnt that a former North-east governor, who is now a senator, is in charge of mobilisation of other senators for the ruling party.
The APC, it was gathered, believes that the insertion of the electronic transmission of results would mean a victory for the opposition, hence the mobilisation to ensure its defeat during the consideration of the draft law by both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Investigations revealed that the senator met other APC senators and House of Representatives members at the weekend to convey the position of their party to them.
The meeting, it was learnt, took place in a hotel in Abuja.
A source privy to the meeting told THISDAY at the weekend that: “We see this as a challenge and must be resisted. If we allow the opposition to have their way, it means that before the election in 2023, we have conceded defeat.
“For party interest, we are mobilised to ensure that the clauses of electronic voting and transmission of results are defeated – at least, for now.
“The draft bill will be tabled on Tuesday and the debate clause-by-clause will commence on Wednesday up to Thursday; thereafter, we proceed on Sallah break.”
But those opposed to the removal of the clauses are also preparing a counter move.
A source from the opposition political parties told THISDAY that there would be no voice votes when a serious decision on the clauses is to be taken.
“We have provisions in the Senate rules for voice votes as well as dividing the Senate for the purpose of taking crucial debates.
“Under the circumstances, we shall call for division because it is in our rules, or we take electronic voting; they are all in our rules. But the voice votes may not be allowed to prevail in issues like this,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, the National Consultative Front (NcFront) has called on stakeholders across party lines, civil society groups, labour unions, youths and women groups to unite against the thickening plot and conspiracy against the amendment bill.
In a statement by the spokesman of the National Consultative Forum, Dr. Tanko Yunusa, the group said the plot against the electoral reforms draft was by a few politicians in power, who wanted to circumvent and supplant the popular will and yearnings of Nigerians for an improved electoral system.
He stated that the group has commenced a nationwide mobilisation of concerned leaders and stakeholders, including former and intending presidential candidates, party and political leaders, labour and civil society activists, among others, to meet and demand acceptable amendments to the Electoral Act, with the aim of improving Nigeria’s democracy.
NCfront said it was reaching out and rallying stakeholders, eminent Nigerians, including religious leaders, leaders of youths, women and vulnerable persons’ groups behind stopping the national emergency threatening the future of Nigeria’s democracy.
The group urged all concerned Nigerians and political stakeholders, irrespective of divide and affinity, to come together to demand a formidable, inclusive, improved and sustainable electoral law that can build the trust and confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system on future elections, starting from the 2023 election cycle.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja