Provisions of clause 52(3) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 tore apart senators across party lines during the consideration of the report containing 154 clauses, yesterday.
The clause, which as recommended by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), provides for electronic transmission of election results by INEC where and when practicable was rejected by an amendment made by Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC Niger North).
Abdullahi, while calling for the amendment through a point of order, added a proviso that such an electronic transmission of results should be subjected to certification of network coverage by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).
The clause as originally recommended by the committee states: “The Commission may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
The amended version adopted by the Senate after voice votes and votes counted during division states that “INEC may consider electronic transmission of results provided the National Network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).”
The clause which took Senate about three hours to consider and approve, first created a stalemate when Albert Akpan Bassey (PDP Akwa Ibom North East ), countered the amendment made by Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
Akpan in his own amendment sought the retention of the provision as originally proposed by the committee which was, however, voted against when put to voice votes as ruled by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan .
After the ruling, the Senate was in a stalemate for about 15 minutes, which led to a hurried executive session.
Apparently unable to reach a consensus at the session which lasted for about an hour, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe rose through order 73 of the Senate Standing Rules to call for a division on amendment sought by Bassey Akpan.
Though Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North) and Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central) separately made spirited efforts to make Abaribe withdraw his motion, the Abia lawmaker stood his ground.
Before the physical voting, Lawan explained that those in favour of amendment made by Abdullahi should say no while those for the counter amendment made by Bassey should say yes.
After the explanation, the Clerk of the Senate, Ibrahim El-Ladan presided over the election on the basis of state by state. At the end of the physical voting which lasted for about 40 minutes, 80 senators voted, out of which 52 voted for the amendment made by Abdullahi and 28 for original provision of the clause. While all the 52 Senators who voted for the amendment belonged to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 26 out of the 28 who voted against belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ironically, Chairman of Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya, who presented the report with original provision of Clause 52(3) voted against it by saying no to Bassey’s call for its retention.
All senators from Anambra and Ogun states and two senators from Oyo bolted at the start of the physical voting.
Those who voted no were Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), Ishaku Elisha (Adamawa North), Dahiru Aishatu Binani (Adamawa Central), Jika Daudu Haliru (Bauchi Central), Bukachuwa Adamu Muhammad (Bauchi North), Degi Eremienyo (Bayelsa East), Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), Shettima Kashim (Borno Central), Ali Ndume (Borno South), Stephen Odey (Cross River North), Ovie Omo – Agege (Delta Central), Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North), Francis Alimikhena (Edo North), Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central), Amos Bulus (Gombe South), Alkali Saidu (Gombe North), Frank Ibezim (Imo North), Hadeija Hassan Ibrahim (Jigawa North East), Abdul – Kwari Suleiman (Kaduna North), Uba Sani (Kaduna Central), Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North), Mundiya Bello (Katsina South) and Abdullahi Barkiya (Katsina Central).
Others are Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North), Abdullahi Adamu Aliero ( Kebbi Central), Oseni Yakubu (Kogi Central), Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), Isah Jibrin (Kogi East), Lola Ashiru (Kwara South), Yahaya Oloriegbe (Kwara Central).
Highly surprising within the no category were the Lagos senators excluding Tokunbo Abiru who was absent. Other were Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa West), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa North), Akwashiki Godiya (Nasarawa South) , Mohammed Sani (Niger East), Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi ( Niger North), Bima Enagi (Niger South), Robert Boroffice (Ondo North), Basiru Ajibola (Osun Central), Adelere Oriolowo (Osun West), Dimka Ayuba( Plateau Central) , Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East ) Yusuf Yusuf (Taraba Central), Isa Shuaibu Lau (Taraba North), Bomai Ibrahim Mohammed (Yobe South), Sahabi Ya’u (Zamfara North) and Lawali Hassan Anka (Zamfara West).
Those who voted yes included Adenugba Fadahunsi, Clifford Ordia, Matthew Urhoghide, Kola Balogun, Gyang Istifanus, George Sekibo, Biodun Olujimi, Mpigi Barinada, Betty Apiafi, Abdullahi Danbaba and Philip Aduda, Chukwuka Utazi, Abdullahi Ibrahim Danbaba, Francis Onyewuchi, Danjuma La’ah Patrick Akinyelure and Enyinnaya Abaribe.
Meanwhile, PDP has accused APC members in the Senate of alleged plot to undermine the country’s democracy.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, accused the Senate of “refusing to approve the demand by Nigerians across board for electronic transmission of election results without conditionalities.”
The opposition party said the “action of the APC senators is an atrocious assault on the sensibilities of Nigerians, who looked up to them for improvement in our electoral process in a manner that will engender free, fair and credible process. It is outrageous that the APC and its senators, in their desperate bid to annex the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seek to route a statutorily independent commission to the approval of an individual masquerading in the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC); an agency under executive control in addition to an extra endorsement of the legislature, before conducting elections.
“This action of the APC senators is a direct affront, novel in its recklessness and a defilement of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which clearly conferred operational independence to INEC to conduct elections, free from interferences and regulations from any other agency of government.”