Electoral Act: CSOs charge Senate to reconsider stance on electronic transfer of results

The requests contained in three separate letters read at the beginning of plenary on Tuesday by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan. 3

Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have called on the Senate not to turn itself into a tyranny of the majority by requesting the Red Chamber to reconsider its position on Electoral Amendment Act to guarantee the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (NEC).

The groups also cautioned the Senate not to create a situation that would trigger a constitutional crisis in the country, noting that the right of the people to elect their leaders should not be tampered with in any disguise.

This was the position of six CSOs in a three-page letter addressed to the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan on Monday through which the groups expressed confidence that constitutionality and national interest will guide the National Assembly to urgently harmonise the bill in a fashion that will excite the people and strengthen democracy in the country.

The CSOs which include: Center For Liberty, Raising New Voices Initiative, Ready To Lead Africa Project Vote Initiative, The Nigerīän Alliance, The Art and Civics Center, CDNDC and Free Nigeria Coalition, said Nigerians were eager to have the Electoral Bill harmonised, transmitted and signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, even before the Anambra governorship election on November 6.

The groups described the controversial clause which subjects the authority of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCO) and the National Assembly before it could decide on the use of technology in the transmission of election results as manifestly inconsistent with Section 63 (5) of the Electoral Act, which it said is in clear violations of Sections 78 and 160 and third schedule, part 1, F, S.15 of 1999 Constitution (FRN-aa).

The CSOs recalled how President Buhari had openly expressed his readiness to sign the bill, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the other hand, has shown the commitment to implement the law.

The letter read in part: “If you may recall, the President had during a meeting with INEC June 2021, assured the nation that, “we will make available to them (INEC) everything they need to operate efficiently, so that no one will say we don’t want to go, or that we want a third term.” We ‘urge you to take cognizance of this as a commitment to do what INEC truly desires.

“It is therefore important for the National Assembly to be on the same page with Mr President, who had equally vowed that: “There will be no excuse for failure. We will meet all of INEC’s demands.” And, since INEC and the overriding legal opinions have confirmed the Senate version of Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Bill passed is in clear violation of the 1999 Constitution (FRN-aa), we ask, sir, why is that the Senate, at this crucial junction, not avoiding clauses and provisions that could trigger an executive veto or create, a constitutional crisis? Are we not able to avoid this constitutional pitfall and allow INEC the discretion as guaranteed by the constitution?

“It is a general consensus of Nigerians that the power to determine the procedure for transmission of results must be solely vested in INEC without interference. In essence, the need to adopt the House of Representative Version of Clause 52, which gives INEC the power to determine the procedure for voting and transmission of election results, represents an irreducible demand of the Commission and President Buhari has committed to this.

“Nigerians are optimistic that legal wisdom will prevail and the Senate will step down its own version of Clause 52(2) of the bill,” the groups submitted.

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