The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly on Tuesday countered each other over the right to electronic transmission of election results.
Against the stance of the National Assembly mandating the commission to get the approval of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) e-transmission of results, the INEC said it does not owe the latter such constitutional obligation.
“That is absolutely unconstitutional. You cannot ask INEC to seek the approval of another agency of government to transmit results electronically when actually INEC has power to impose duties on NCC to achieve electronic transmission of results.
“I completely agree that in the context of underscoring the independence of the commission, section 160 of the Constitution has done everything it needs to do. What is left is for INEC to use the power it has under the constitution to achieve its aim,” INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Electoral Operations and Logistic Committee, Okechukwu Ibeanu, reportedly said at the commission’s third quarterly meeting of INEC with media executives in Abuja.
Before proceeding on recess in July, the Senate, while voting on the amendment to the Electoral Act, rejected the section on electronic transmission of election results by INEC, tying it to the country’s technology unreadiness, among other things.
If signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the bill will shape the way elections are conducted in the country and curtail rigging and manipulations of election results.
However, at Tuesday’s meeting with the media executives and civil society organisations, INEC’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, reiterated the commission’s intention to forge ahead in making electoral mechanisms more credible as he introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
He said the BVAS would eliminate the electorate’s fear of identity theft as it would replace the Smart Card Reader (SCR) and Z-pad.
In reaction to the question on the independence of the electoral commission to transmit results electronically, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ajibola Basiru, told the PUNCH, said Mr Yakubu had misinterpreted item 22 and Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution and thereby misinformed the public.
“INEC, in implementing the law, becomes independent pursuant to the constitutional provision. He (INEC chairman) should not muddle the independence of INEC with that of its agency’s operations, as to the legislative competence of the National Assembly to stipulate framework for elections.
“The INEC chairman does not seem to know the position of the law as to the constitutional power of INEC vis a vis the National Assembly from what he said. I will advise him to seek proper legal advice,” he said.
PDP, APC react
Speaking on the claim of right, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the INEC does not require the approval of the NCC to transfer election results electronically since the constitution has given the commission the right to set a template for a smooth election.
“The law establishing INEC gives it powers to set the template for the smooth conduct of elections; it was the same law it used to introduce the card reader which has improved our electoral system,” the PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said.
On its part, the APC, which has the highest number of members in both chambers of the NASS, aligned with the fact that INEC remains the regulator of political parties in the country but did not speak directly to the legitimacy of the commission to transmit election results electronically without being subjected to NCC approval.
“INEC is the regulator of political parties; political parties can’t tell it what to do. The APC, as you know, is a law-abiding party; we are always guided by the provisions of the law,” the interim national secretary of the ruling party, John Akpanudoedehe, said.