Southern senators turn against govs, National Assembly members clash

Facts on Thursday emerged about how the All Progressives Congress rallied its Senators to reject moves to adopt electronic transmission of election results in 2023.

The PUNCH gathered that since last month, the APC had been reaching out to its lawmakers through zonal caucuses and insisting that their position on the controversial issue would test their loyalty to the party.

On Thursday, those who rejected the move to adopt electronic transfer of results in 2023 included Southern APC senators, whose governors, at a meeting in Lagos on July 5, warned against its removal in the amended Electoral Act.

Recall that the Southern Governors’ Forum, at its meeting in Lagos on July 5, called for the retention of the electronic transfer of results in the the Electoral Act.

The SGF, in a communiqué read by its Chairman and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, had stated, “The Southern Governors’ Forum rejects the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election results from the Electoral Act.”

On Thursday, the red chamber amended over 150 clauses in the 2010 Electoral Act but failed to make transmission of results compulsory in future elections.

The red chamber ruled out the possibility of having results transmitted electronically when it voted that the Nigerian Communications Commission, with National Assembly approval, would determine whether the Independent National Electoral Commission could transmit results electronically or not.

Those who voted against electronic transfer of results hinged their decision on the fact that the NCC had said only 43 per cent of Nigeria had internet network.

It was gathered that before Thursday, the APC had held a series of meetings with the APC leadership in the Senate and the House of Representatives to seek support for the rejection of the portion of the Electoral Act supporting the electronic transfer of results.

It was learnt that party leaders were uncomfortable with the potential damage the clause could cause if allowed to pass without modification.

A high-ranking member of the APC, who spoke to one of our correspondents, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said, “This is politics and as the governing party, you don’t allow the opposition to dictate the pace.

“Those in opposition certainly know something we don’t know. The way they (PDP) were pushing for this electronic transfer of results or electronic voting thing using NGOs, international agencies and all that, should tell you something.

“Yes, we appreciate technology but the reality on ground is that we still have the challenge of infrastructure. There are several villages where these electronic devices don’t work. We are simply not ready for the kind of changes the opposition is trying to force us to accept.”

It was gathered that the party leadership reached out to members through the various caucuses in both chambers ahead of Thursday’s vote.

Attempts to get a reaction from the National Secretary of the APC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, were futile. He neither picked nor returned calls to his mobile phone.

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kola Ologbondiyan, expressed disappointment at the turn of events.

He said, “We in the PDP have always made our position on electoral reforms known. As a political party interested in deepening democracy, we set up a high-powered committee headed by the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, to canvass our position which included the issue of electronic transfer of results. The problem of our electoral system has always been at the point of collation of results.”

In a statement later, the spokesman stated, “The PDP and indeed the majority of Nigerians are shocked over the decision of the APC-led Senate to undermine our electoral process by refusing to approve the demand by Nigerians across board for electronic transmission of election results without conditionalities.”

On Thursday, the senators were divided along party lines with the PDP members supporting electronic transfer of election results, while their APC colleagues, including southern members, insisted that it should only be adopted when feasible.

The Senate Committee on INEC had, in the report, recommended in Section 52(3) that “The commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”

But an APC senator from Niger North, Sabi Abdullahi, amended the clause to read, “INEC may consider electronic collation of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secured by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”

Uproar as senators disagree over electronic result transmission

During plenary, there was uproar over provisions of clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.

The clause which took Senate about three hours to consider and approved , first created stalemate when Senator Albert Akpan Bassey (PDP Akwa Ibom North East), countered the amendment made by Senator Abdullahi .

Akpan, in his own amendment, 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 the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.

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

When the Senate failed to reach consensus on the matter at the closed session which lasted for about an hour , the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe rose through order 73 of the Senate Standing Rules to call for division on amendment sought by Akpan .

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

Before the physical voting was done by calling the senators one after the other per state, the President of the Senate explained to them that those in favour of amendment made by Abdullahi should say No, while those for the counter amendment made by Bassey should say yes.

After the explanation, the Clerk of the Senate, Ibrahim El-Ladan presided over the election by calling the Senators one after the other on the basis of state by state .

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