In July, shortly before embarking on an annual recess, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed different versions of the Electoral Amendment Bill. Over two months after, controversies still trail the passage of the bills.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the federal legislature passed the legislation amid chaos and disagreement arising from some controversial sections of the bill.
One of such sections is Clause 52, which deals with electronic transmission of results of elections – a key recommendation from Nigerians including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In passing the bill, the Senate changed the Section from “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable” to “The commission may consider electronic transmission provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”
But the House of Representatives retained the original provision.
With the 2023 general elections about 15 months away, some Nigerians are still angry with the Senate over its version, which they described as an attempt to discard the use of electronic transmission of results and ultimately hinder the nation’s electoral process.
INEC, on its part, has repeatedly said it is ready for electronic transmission of future election results.
Other grey areas
But this is just one of the differences in versions of the Electoral Bill passed by the lawmakers.
Besides the popular Clause 52, there are other major clauses of the bill where the conference committee will harmonise or concur on. They include the following:
*Clause 5, which deals with annual estimates and accounts. While the Senate version prescribes that INEC submits estimates of its expenditure, income and payment to the Ministry of Finance not later than August 31 of every financial year, the House simply prescribes that INEC keep proper accounts and records of each financial year which shall be audited.
*Clause 16, which deals with powers to print and issue voters’ cards. While the Senate prescribes a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment or a term not more than one year or both for persons found with more than one valid voter’s card, the House prescribed N100,000 or imprisonment for a term not more than one year; or both.
*Clause 23, which deals with offences of buying and selling voters’ cards. The Senate deleted a sub-clause of this section which frowns at persons in unlawful possession of any voters’ card whether issued in the name of any voter or not. The House retained the sub-clause.
*Clause 24, which deals with offences relating to the registration of voters. The Senate deleted a sub-clause that criminalises the act of making false statements in any application for registration as a voter. The House retained that part.
*Clause 50, which is about the right to challenge the issue of a ballot paper. The Senate’s version reads “a candidate or polling agent may challenge the right of a person to vote on the ground that the person is not a registered voter in the polling unit.” The House’ version reads “a candidate or polling agent may challenge the right of a person to vote on such grounds and in accordance with procedures as provided for in this bill.”
*Clause 63, which deals with the counting of votes and forms. The Senate prescribed a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment or a term of six months for a presiding officer who wilfully contravenes any provision of the section. The House, however, prescribed N100,000 or a term of six months.
*Clause 73, which deals with forms for use at elections. The Senate prescribed N1 million or imprisonment for a term of one year, or both, for presiding officers who intentionally announce or sign any election result in violation of the procedure provided for in the bill. The House prescribed N200,000 or a term of one year or both.
*Clause 87, which deals with the nomination of candidates by parties. While the Senate passed to allow for direct or indirect primaries, the House allows for only direct primaries by deleting the words “or indirect” in the clause and other parts it appeared in the bill.
Consequently, both chambers have constituted their harmonisation committee in line with parliamentary procedures.
Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan [PHOTO CREDIT: @NgrSenate]On September 22, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, constituted the conference committee to harmonise the different versions of the bill.
It comprises seven members, mostly critics of the use of electronic transmission of results.
The House set up its own committee on September 28, dominated by APC members, which has the majority in the chamber. Most members are opposed to transmitting election results electronically.
Here are the members of the committees of the two chambers and what you need to know about them.
1. Abdullahi Yahaya
Mr Yahaya, who is the Senate Leader, was named the chairman of the committee.
He represents Kebbi North senatorial district under the platform of APC.
The two-time senator is also the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business.
He was Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Sokoto State and later Kebbi State after the latter was excised from the former.
Mr Yahaya is one of the lawmakers who tried to sell the idea that Nigeria does not currently have the necessary technological infrastructure in place to use electronic transmission of results in an election, coupled with poor network coverage in some villages across the country.
Prior to the vote in July, he attempted to talk the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, out of his call for ‘Division’ when there was a stalemate during plenary. He, however, went ahead to vote against the use of electronic transmission.
2. Kabiru Gaya
Mr Gaya was the Third Republic governor of Kano State.
He represents Kano South under the platform of the APC. He was a member of the defunct ANPP. He is a four-time senator.
He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC who later voted against the use of electronic transmission (earlier recommended by his committee).
As an excuse for voting against his panel’s recommendations, Mr Gaya said the amended version was better.
“There is nothing wrong if the chairman of a committee supports the amended version of a report he presented. It is not possible as it is, to transmit elections in one part of the country and refuse to do so in other parts.
“It has to be uniform. The card reader can work anywhere in the country but you need network coverage to transmit results,” he had explained.
3. Ajibola Basiru
Mr Basiru is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs.
Prior to his election into the Senate, the lawmaker served as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Osun State.
Mr Basiru is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs.
Mr Basiru (APC, Osun Central), like two senators from Lagos State, surprisingly voted against the use of electronic transmission in elections.
Despite voting against electronic transmission, the lawmaker at a roundtable on September 17, expressed worry over Section 52 as passed by the Senate describing the provisions as “nebulous, vague and one that should be deliberated.” This is even as he promised thorough scrutiny of the different versions passed by the Senate and House.
4. Danjuma Goje
Mr Goje is a former governor of Gombe State and a former junior minister in the Obasanjo administration (1999-2003). He was a member of the PDP before crossing over to the ruling APC.
Mr Goje voted against the use of electronic transmission of results during elections.
Mr Goje, who has been in the Senate since 2011, believes that the “poor network coverage” in some remote areas of the country will leave some Nigerians disenfranchised.
5. Sani Musa
The lawmaker who represents Niger North senatorial district is currently the chairman of the Senate Committee on Senate Services.
Shortly after his election into the Senate in 2019, he became widely criticised across the country after he reintroduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 (popularly known as the Social Media Bill).
Mr Musa, like many northern senators of the APC voted against electronic transmission.
He premised this decision on the ‘poor network’ coverage in some areas of the country.
6. Matthew Urhoghide
He is one of the two members of the panel from the opposition party, PDP.
He represents Edo South in the Senate.
The two-time senator is currently the chairman of the Senate Public Accounts Committee.
Prior to his election into the Senate in 2015, the lawmaker was the Publicity Secretary for the PDP in Edo State.
He is also the only member of the Senate’s seven-member committee who voted for the use of electronic transmission of results in an election.
As public accounts committee chair, Mr Urhogide is “notorious” for threatening to arrest (or demand removal of) heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies who default in their spending or budget performance.
7. Uche Ekwunife
Mrs Ekwunife, a former bank official, represents Anambra Central in the upper legislative chamber on the PDP ticket.
The two-time senator is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.
She was an aspirant for the Anambra governorship election. She, however, lost during the primaries.
Mrs Ekwunife was absent from the plenary when the voting on the bill took place in July.
In her defence, the lawmaker said she vehemently argued against the amendment, which she claimed would favour some regions against others, especially in the South-east that has good network coverage.
House of Reps members
8. Akeem Adeyemi
Mr Adeyemi, a son of the Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi, represents Afijio/Oyo East/Atiba West federal constituency of Oyo State. He is a member of the ruling APC.
He is the Chairman of the House Committee on Communications. He was first elected into the House in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 after defeating his brother, Bayo Adeyemi.
Mr Adeyemi is the Chairman of the House Conference Committee and will lead its members to meet with their Senate counterparts.
9. James Faleke
Though Mr Faleke hails from Kogi State, North-central region, he represents Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the South-west region.
He is a former Chairman of Ojodu Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Lagos and he is a political ally of the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
He is a member of the APC. He currently chairs the House Committee on Finance, a committee considered to be ‘juicy’.
Mr Faleke was the running mate to the late Audu Abubakar during the 2015 Kogi State governorship election.
The Audu/Faleke ticket was leading the race against the then incumbent, Governor Idris Wada, before (INEC) declared the election inconclusive. It was in the middle of this that Mr Audu died.
The incident created a crisis because the 2010 Electoral Act did not envisage the death of a candidate while an election is still ongoing.
In the aftermath of the death of Mr Audu, the APC resolved to replace him with the runner up at the primary election, Yahaya Bello. Mr Bello subsequently won the election and is currently in his second term as governor.
Mr Faleke challenged the position of his party up to the Supreme Court but he lost.
10: Blessing Onuh
Mrs Onuh is the daughter of former Senate President, David Mark.
She is a first-timer and represents Otukpo/Ohimini federal constituency of Benue State in the House.
Mrs Onuh is the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Federal Capital Territory.
She was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but decamped to the APC early this year.
During the 2019 election, she defeated her uncle, Egli Ahubi, of the PDP.
Although Mr Ahubi had earlier defeated his niece during the PDP primary, with the APGA ticket, Mrs Onuh trounced her uncle in the main election.
11. Aisha Dukku
Mrs Dukku represents Dukku/Nafada federal constituency of Gombe State in the lower legislative chamber on the platform of the APC.
She was Minister of Education (State) in the administration of late President Umar Yar’Adua between 2007 and 2010.
Mrs Dukku was elected into the House in 2015 and was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Electoral and Political Matters.
All attempts to amend the Electoral Act in the 8th Assembly were futile as President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the bill on three occasions.
She was re-elected into the House in 2019 and also re-appointed chairman of the committee.
It was Mrs Dukku who led the committee to work on the bill that the chamber considered and voted on in July.
12. Chris Azubogu
Mr Azubogu represents Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekusigo federal constituency of Anambra State.
He was elected into the House in 2011 under the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He was re-elected in 2015 and 2019 on the ticket of the PDP.
He participated in the just concluded Anambra State governorship PDP primary election but lost.
Mr Azubogu is one of the two members of the PDP in the committee and also supports the electronic transmission of results.
He reportedly suggested that the November 6 Anambra poll could be a testing ground for some of the proposed innovations in the bill.
13. Unyime Idem
The lawmaker represents Ukanafun/Oruk federal constituency of Akwa-Ibom State.
The first-time lawmaker joined the House in 2019 under the banner of the PDP.
Since joining the House, Mr Idem’s attention has focused on reforming the digital space. He has a bill seeking to amend the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to allow pay per view subscriptions.
14. Ahmad Kalambaina
Mr Kalambaina represents Kware/Wamakko federal constituency of Sokoto State on the platform of the APC.
The lawmaker was first elected into the lower legislative chamber in 2017 following his victory at a by-election. In 2019, he was re-elected for another four-year term.