Civil Society Organizations Urges NASS To Allow INEC Transmit Results Electronically

The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room has urged  the National Assembly to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to determine the mode of conduct of elections, including transmission of results.

The Situation Room, which is a coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, working in support of credible and transparent elections in the country, maintained that INEC, “has shown by its practice and experience that it has the capacity to use technology in elections, including the transmission of results.”

It noted that a committee set up by both the Senate and the House of Representatives was set to hold a conference on the Electoral Bill Harmonisation.

The CSOs, in a statement signed by its convener, Mrs. Ene Obi, urged the harmonisation committee to accept the version of the Electoral Bill that would allow INEC transmit election results electronically.

It said: “As the National Assembly Harmonisation Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives sets for its conference on the Electoral Bill harmonisation, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and the EU-SDGN implementing partners call for a dispassionate, selfless decision-making process during the harmonisation.

“Nigerians have expressed their expectations for an Electoral Act, 2021, that will endure personal, partisan and primordial considerations.

“Notwithstanding the landmark proposals in the ongoing review process, civil society partners and key stakeholders have identified about 17 points of divergence in the versions of the Elections Act Amendment Bill passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Among which are the use of Smart Card Readers; the deployment of electronic voting, collation and transmission of results; the cost of campaigns and the process of nomination of candidates etc.

“As civil society community and as expressed by a vast majority of electoral stakeholders and Nigerians, we are concerned by these identified differences in the proposals particularly regarding electronic transmission of results and the deployment of technological devices in the conduct of elections.

“Following from our experience and observations of elections in recent years, as well as widely held views of Nigerians, we expect the harmonisation committee to accept the version of the Electoral Bill that allows the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine the mode of conduct of elections, including transmission of results.

“INEC has shown by its practice and experience that it has adequate capacity to use technology in elections including in the transmission of results.

“This experience has been proven during several off-cycle elections in recent years. Indeed, INEC has expanded its use of technology, including using the Z-pad and now, its newest innovation, the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

“We would also like to point out that the version of the bill that stipulates the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recommendation and National Assembly approval before election results can be transmitted electronically, presents a constitutional breach that may result in long-drawn litigations and uncertainty which could put INEC’s preparations for elections in jeopardy”.

Among its key recommendations, the Situation Room, urged the Harmonisation Committee to adopt the Senate version of Clause 43, which it said recognized ‘voting devices’ alongside election materials.

“This is because the Senate inserted the words ‘and voting devices’ immediately after election materials.

Adopt the Senate version of Clause 49, which recognizes ‘other technological devices’ alongside ‘Smart Card Readers’ for voter accreditation.

“INEC should be given the power to deploy an effective and efficient technological device for accrediting voters during elections.

“For example, INEC tested the new Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during the Isoko South 1 Constituency bye-election into Delta State House of Assembly and plans to deploy same in subsequent elections.

“Adopt the House of Representatives Version of Clause 52, which gives INEC the power to determine the procedure for voting and transmission of election results.

“The power to determine the procedure for transmission of results should be vested with INEC without interference from any individual or government agency.  This position safeguards INEC’s independence.

“Adopt the Senate Version of Clauses 63 and 76 which increases the penalty for sanctioning a presiding officer who contravenes the Electoral Act concerning the proper counting of accounting for votes and the announcement of results.

“We believe that sanctions should place high retributive demand (financial or otherwvise) on the offender, in order to discourage electoral offences.

“Adopt the Senate version of clause 87, which gives political parties the option to adopt either direct or indirect primaries.

“The focus should be on strict adherence to the guidelines for each mode of party primary adopted.

“We will continue to follow up with the Harmonisation Committee’s work and do urge it to act in the best national interest and devoid of short-term political intrigues and calculations”.

Among groups that endorsed the statement were; Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Women and Adolescent Empowerment, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), African Centre for Entrepreneurship and Information Development (ACEIDEV), Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC).

Others are: Justice Development and Peace Commission (JPDC) Nnewi, ASPILOS Foundation, Mac-Jim Foundation, Kimpact Development Initiative, Democratic Action Group (DAG), Women’s Rights to Education Programme, EDO CSOs, Young Innovators and Vocational Training Initiative (YVITI), New Initiative for Social Development (NISD).