The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill to amend the 2022 Electoral Act by making electronic transmission of results mandatory.
The bill, sponsored by Francis Waive (APC, Delta), seeks to revisit the controversial electronic transmission of results that was rejected during the last review.
The House on Wednesday debated the general principle of the bill and passed it for second reading.
Controversy over electronic transmission of results
In 2021, the two chambers of the National Assembly passed the Electoral Bill with electronic transmission of election results generating the most controversy.
Proponents wanted the National Assembly to legally empower INEC with the responsibility to transmit election results electronically.
However, legislators, especially of the All Progressives Congress, many of whom voted along party lines, voted against it. In the end, the lawmakers passed the bill by giving INEC discretionary powers on the transmission of results.
Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act reads: “The presiding officer shall transfer the results including the total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.”
Ahead of the last general elections, INEC had assured Nigerians that results would be transmitted electronically and Nigerians would view it via the IREV portal.
IReV is an online platform where photographic pictures of polling unit results are meant to be uploaded using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines as soon as voting and collation end at the various voting units.
But the commission failed to fulfil the promise with results ending up taking days to weeks to be uploaded to IReV for the public to access. The commission blamed the delay on unforeseen system glitches.
The failure of INEC to upload the results to the IREV portal dominated the presidential election litigation. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the non-transmission of polling unit results in real-time did not substantially affect the outcome of the election.
Transmission must be mandatory — Waive
Mr Waive’s bill is seeking to amend section 60(5) of the Act to include electronic transmission of results.
“The presiding officer shall transfer and or transmit the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot electronically,” the proposed clause reads.
Leading the debate, Mr Waive said the House cannot allow ambiguity in the electoral law, noting that the words of the law should be definite.
“In the 2022 Act, the issue of electronic transmission of results was not definite. I think we should not make laws that would be vague,” Mr Waive said.
Conducting all elections on the same day
The bill is also seeking to amend section 28 of the principal act with the proposal that all elections – Presidential, Senate, House of Representatives, Governors and State Assemblies are held on the same day.
“Subject to paragraph (a) of this section, and without prejudice to other sections of this act, election into the office of the President, National Assembly, State Governors and State House of Assembly shall be conducted 15 on the same day,” the proposed clause reads.
Mr waive said the proposal aims to reduce the cost of election and reduce the bandwagon effect.
Furthermore, the bill is proposing to amend Section 47 of the Act to make accreditation mandatory. According to the proposed amendment, only accredited voters can vote.
“Where the process of accreditation specified in sub-section (2) above fails, such a voter is automatically disqualified from voting, that is to say, no accreditation, no voting,” Mr Waive said.
Overhaul of voters register every 10 years
The bill is also seeking to give INEC the power to produce new voters register every 10 years to remove dead people from the register.
The proposed amendment states that “without prejudice to the provisions of this section and subject subsection (2), every 10 years the Commission shall carry out a re-registration exercise of all eligible voters in preparation for the next general elections.”
Speaking in support of this clause, Speaker Abbas Tajudeen said the bill, if passed, would remove dead people from the register, noting that the last election shows that the register is bloated.
Meanwhile, the bill is also proposing sanctions against politicians who institute frivolous lawsuits.
According to the proposal, Section 130 subsection (2) of the Principal Act is hereby amended by providing a new subsection (2) while the previous sub-section (2) becomes sub-section 3 as follows;
“(2) notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (1) above, any person who presents a frivolous petition to the tribunal shall be liable to pay a huge fine to the Respondent, if the court so determines the petition to be frivolous and a waste of time,” the proposal reads.
Most of the lawmakers who contributed to the bill supported the majority of the proposals.
When the bill was put to vote by the speaker, the “ayes” had it. It was referred to the Committee on Electoral Matters.