Electronic transmission of election results had been long sought by INEC and craved by many Nigerians. Proponents of this innovation wanted the National Assembly (NASS) to legally empower INEC with the responsibility to transmit election results electronically. This is in reaction to the results of manually conducted and transmitted election results that ultimately ended up manipulated with the true winners ending up not being declared winners. Poor governance which is signposted Enroute all tiers of government in Nigeria has also been linked to incredible, restrained and unfair election outcomes. And therefore, July 15 and 16 were days the senate and House of Reps made history when they passed the bill that did not represent the interest of Nigerians.
When the issue was debated, the senate believed that electronic transmission of election results was practically impossible in the present day Nigeria going by technical advice issued by the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), which stated that less than 50 per cent of Nigeria communities are connected to 3G network coverage for transmission of election results. NCC Commissioner, technical services, Ubale Maska, encouraged the NASS position in what seemed like a prearranged agreement meant to maneuver the situation saying by NCC survey in 2018, 50.3 per cent of the 109,000 polling units out of 119,000 polling units that have 3G network facilities. Others are with a 2G network while some are without coverage.
The submission of the NCC Commissioner influenced the lawmakers in voting, though along party lines, against the innovation. But the puzzle is, INEC which is constitutionally the agency recognized to conduct elections was not allowed by the leadership of the NASS to brief the lawmakers on the issue. And here, we smell a rat.
INEC had earlier conducted elections in Ondo and Edo States using electronic transmission of election results and they hope to still do it in the forthcoming Anambra governorship election. Confronted with the position of NASS as guided by NCC, INEC declared that NASS gave Nigerians a “Blatant Lie”. INEC’s director of publicity and voter education, Nick Dazang, faulted the claims by NCC officials.INEC said in January 2018 they approached NCC on its desire to be a technological-driven Commission and the two commissions have been working closely to deliver free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria for the benefit of Nigerians. INEC adds that they are aware of the assistance MTN and Airtel give to JAMB to conduct their examinations across Nigeria. INEC, therefore, wonders why NCC suddenly made a u-turn to assert that there is not enough network coverage in the greater part of Nigeria. And here again, we smell a rat.
This u-turn behaviour exhibited by NCC would have been reset if INEC was given the chance to appear before the NASS alongside the NCC and told the honourable members of the House and distinguished senators that all network providers in Nigeria have assured INEC that network coverage is 100 per cent available across the country. So, why did the leadership of the Senate and House, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila respectively not give chance to INEC to make input? We smell a rat.
Although controversy has trailed senate president, Ahmad Lawan’s manner of leadership in conducting the affairs of the senate as critics say the current legislature seems to be doing only the will of President Buhari and the APC rather than working for Nigeria and Nigerian people; Lawan insists that the 9th NASS is not a rubber stamp. But the pattern of the votes of lawmakers along party line has further questioned the loyalty of the politicians to Nigerians and their constituents especially when Lawan could outrightly call for a voice vote on an issue and declare results that do not reflect the opinion of even senators at the floor of the Red Chambers, the ayes have it instead of the nays as the case might be.
The Deputy Senate President (DSP), Senator Ovie Omo-Agege who is considered the leader of the APC in the South-South did not hide his stand in orchestrating the position of NCC and swaying his colleagues to vote against the bill. Critics among his constituents have quashed his argument premised on the information provided by NCC with a hole on the lie and maintaining that there was sufficient network coverage in the village of the DSP, Orogun to implement electronic transmission of election results just as they drew the DSP’s attention to the many functional POS machines littered in every corner of the Orogun community. The critics say for having the boldness to openly oppose the bill shows that the DSP has lost touch with the pulse of his constituents. And something must have gone wrong that made the DSP support the lie by the NCC. We smell a rat.
A supporter of the DSP in reacting to the barrage of criticism had reproduced the results of the governorship election of 2019 in Delta State. The data presented indicated that areas that have difficulty accessing turned over huge figures of votes for the prevailing political party whereas, areas that are easy to access and policed maintained a low number of natural vote counts. He cautioned against the criticism on the DSP over the issue and reasoned that the DSP should be commended for ensuring the death of the bill to allow opportunities for personal political interest to be achieved through rigging and manipulations of election results manually.
It is our belief that the flimsy excuse given by those that voted against the bill is not acceptable. We see the rejection of the bill as too hasty and join millions of Nigerians in calling on the NASS to reconsider their position of the matter, and give ample opportunity to INEC to lead the debate and reassure Nigerians of their loyalty to Nigeria in ensuring that INEC is empowered to transmit election results electronically.