The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly on Tuesday countered each other over the 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) for e-transmission of results, 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 National Assembly, while voting on the amendment to the Electoral Act, rejected the section on electronic transmission of election results by INEC, saying the country was not ready for such.
The amended electoral act, if signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, is expected to improve the quality of Nigeria’s elections. Many observers have, however, faulted the lawmakers’ decision on the electronic transmission of results; saying that by making it subject to the approval of the NCC, the lawmakers were hindering INEC’s independence and efficiency.
It was also reported that the NCC misled the lawmakers into believing that the country was not technologically prepared for electronic transmission of election results.
At Tuesday’s meeting with the media executives and civil society organisations, INEC’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, reiterated the commission’s intention to proceed with making the electoral system more credible through the introduction of the 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 his reaction to INEC’s latest stance on electronic transmission of results, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ajibola Basiru, told the PUNCH newspaper that 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 matter, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said 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 controls both chambers of the National Assembly, has been evasive on taking a formal stance on INEC’s position on electronic transmission of results. Although the majority of the lawmakers who voted against INEC’s request to transmit results electronically are members of the APC, the party has refused to formally make its position known.
When asked to speak on the matter on Tuesday, the interim secretary of the ruling party, John Akpanudoedehe, simply spoke on INEC’s independence.
“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,” Mr Akpanudoedehe said.