2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill raises varying opinions in Senate

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The Nigerian Senate was divided at plenary over an amendment to clause 52(3) of the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, presented to it for consideration.

The division arose when the senate began the clause-by-clause consideration of the recommendations of its Committee on INEC on Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021. Clause 52(3) of the bill had prescribed that INEC might adopt electronic voting and transmission of results where practicable.

The section, which provided for INEC to determine the electronic process of voting was, however, amended to empower the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to determine the suitability of the network to conduct electronic election processes with approval of the National Assembly.

The amendment was sought by Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC-Niger), while President of Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan passed the gravel in support of the amendment.

Sen. Bassey Akpan(PDP Akwa-Ibom) however called for an amendment to retain the initial recommendation of clause 52(3) on the bill,  arising from the adoption of Sabi’s amendment proposal. Akpan’s call, however, resulted in a session of heated verbal arguments amongst the senators.

The approval of Sabi’s amendment, however, did not go down well with some senators, who were against the amendment to the clause. This resulted in the senators engaging in an uncomplimentary exchange of words.

The Senate President then called for a closed session, which lasted for almost 10 minutes, given the uncomplimentary verbal exchange amongst the senators. Sen. Enyinaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia) after the end of the closed session, called for a division, haven cited order 73, which allows senators to contest the ruling of the President of the Senate.

The senators then took turns to vote “Yes or No” on the retention of the clause for an electronic voting process as earlier recommended on the bill. At the end of the open voting process, senators who voted for the amendment to the clause won haven recorded the highest number of votes.

The senators,  who voted for Sabi’s option of the amendment were 52, that of  Akpan 28,  while 28 senators were absent. Some of the senators, who voted against Akpan’s proposal for retention of the earlier provision on the bill,  believed that Nigeria was not ripe for electronic voting and transmission of results.

The clause, which was amended now empowers NCC and the national assembly to determine the application of electronic voting and transmission of results during elections as against the earlier provision which empowered INEC to decide on electronic voting and transmission of election results at elections.

Suzan O/NAN

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