The National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said electronic voting systems could only be introduced into the nation’s electoral process when the nation was sure of the appropriate technologies, provide infrastructure, to address cyber security, among other challenges.
According to INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the country was not there yet. He was however confident that his agency could achieve electronic collation of results (e-collation) and electronic transmission of results (e-transmission) during the next election circle in 2023.
Mahmood spoke in Abuja on Monday at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR) stakeholders’ forum on elections. NCSSR is a coalition of civil society organisations, led by Clement Nwankwo, the Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC).
The INEC Chairmen, Deputy Senate President, Snetor Ovie Omo-Agege and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami were unanimous on the need to review the nation’s Electoral Act before the next election season and particularly, the importance of creating the much-requested Electoral Offences Commission.
Represented by Festus Okoye (an INEC National Commissioner), Mahmood stressed the need for any review of the Electoral Act to further strengthen his agency’s regulatory capacity and independence.
He said: “The commission (INEC) must be the major driver in the introduction of new technologies in our electoral process.
“Electronic voting systems are dynamic and the appropriate time for the introduction of each aspect must be clearly thought out taking into consideration the appropriate technology, the state of infrastructure in the different parts of the country, environmental issues, cyber security matters, procurement challenges, the level of literacy in the country and other sundry matters.
“We believe that Electronic Collation of Results (E-Collation) and Transmission of Results (E-Transmission) are possible and achievable in the 2023 election. The Commission will continue to improve the electoral system through the adoption of new election technologies where feasible and relevant, and will, in all cases, examine the viability and relevance of such technologies before adoption.
“Towards these, the legal framework for the adoption of such technologies would be the first most important step before any other steps. We acknowledge the introduction of a bill to establish an Election Offences Commission and Tribunal and state unequivocally that we support it.
“Our country must break the cycle of impunity in the electoral process and bring to justice the violators of the sovereign right of the people to clean elections.
We urge you to critically examine aspects of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) that will strengthen the electoral legal framework and enhance the power of the vote.
“It is also important to emphasis the collective nature of electoral reform, and draw attention to the fact that electoral reforms should not end at the level of retooling the legal framework, but should also extend to attitudinal issues bordering on curbing impunity and the development of a culture of tolerance and sportsmanship.
“The commission will remain transparent and accountable in its dealings with the Nigerian people and will continue to consult with critical stakeholders on major policy issues and issues around its regulations, guidelines and manuals.
“However, the commission will not share its constitutionally and legally guaranteed regulatory powers with any individual, Political Party, groups or organizations. Rather, the commission will approach the National Assembly with new proposals to further enhance its regulatory powers and the provision of clarity on grey areas that have been exploited to whittle down its powers.
To this end, the commission will propose the review of the provision to section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). The commission is a creation of the Constitution and is duty bound to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended).
“The commission will be shirking its constitutional and regulatory powers if it cannot enforce the qualifying threshold in section 177 and 187 of the Constitution and other equivalent provisions.
“The implication is that the Commission can close its eyes to the nomination of non-Nigerians and infants by Political Parties to contest Governorship and other elections. The commission will robustly and expansively implement and interpret its powers within the compass of constitutionally allowed window.
“The commission will also make proposals that will clarify and strengthen its powers in relation to declaration and returns by Collation and Returning Officers. Declarations and Returns must be made voluntarily and not through duress and other unwholesome practices.
“To this extent, the commission must retain the discretion to take urgent and remedial actions in clear cases of the violation of its regulations and guidelines in the conduct of elections.
“The commission is irrevocably committed to the enhancement of the power of the Smart Card Reader as the dominant procedure for verification, accreditation and proving over voting in the electoral process.
“The commission will therefore seek the incorporation of the Smart Card Reader in section 49 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). The individuals holding the Permanent Voters Cards must be the ones voting and not the cards.
“The Smart Card Reader is now part of our national asset and the Commission will not allow any individual or groups to undermine it. Rather, the Commission will guard it jealously and make for its robust usage,” the INEC Chair said.
Omo-Agege said the National Assembly has heeded calls, particularly from the Judiciary, via it many pronouncements for amendments to the Electoral Act.
“It is for these reasons and much more that we are coming up with very clear provisions amending the principal Act to give unambiguous effect to Electoral Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals duly issued by the Commission in strict compliance with section 160 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“Pervasive non-compliance with the Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals will carry clear consequences for people, who think violating electoral due process is a rewarding exercise,” Omo-Agege said.
He identified the many amendments being proposed to include: “focusing on resolving issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into our electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.; ensuring that the Act clearly forbids members of political parties from taking up employment in INEC; and mandating INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that lost its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement or new candidate.”
Also being planned is the provision “defining ‘over voting’ to include situations where ‘total votes cast’ also exceed ‘total number of accredited voters’ and “overhauling Section 87 on Nomination of Candidates by Parties for Elections by prescribing maximum fees payable by aspirants and restricting nomination criteria strictly to relevant provisions of the Constitution.”
Malami noted that elections in the country have “become much more contentious than ever before,” a development he attributed to “the desire to win election at all cost as well as weak electoral structures that are not accountable to voters at all levels of governance”.
Represented by the Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Justice Sector Reform, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, Malami argued that it was” imperative that our electoral laws are reformed to ensure the efficient and legitimate conduct of elections in Nigeria, as the credibility of elections impacts our global outlook and eventually lead to economic growth, shared prosperity and a secured nation.
“In line with this, the administration is committed to tackling the issue of electoral fraud and violence and supports the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission.”
BREAKING: Senate Passes Bill To Make Tenure Of IGP Single 4-Year Tenure
The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will make the tenure of office of the Inspector-General of Police by a single four-year term.
According to the Senate, the action became imperative to enable for a secured tenure of plan
a serving Inspector- General of Police, just as it passed that the community policing be strengthened.
The Senate has changed the name of “Nigeria Police” to Nigeria Police Force” as presently in use in view of the failed constitution alteration attempt to amend the name.
The Bill which was read the third time and passed, was a sequel to the consideration of the report on Police ACT CAP P19 LFN 2004( Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2020( SB.181) presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Dauda Haliru Jika, APC, Bauchi Central.
The Upper Chamber has also approved that on the Appointment and Removal of the Inspector-General of Police, the provisions of the constitution in line with Section 2l5 of the l999 constitution (as amended) should be retained, as any proposal contrary to this provision will require constitution alteration for it to be viable.
The Senate resolved that the Police abide and enforce certain constitutional provisions, particularly fundamental rights at persons in Police custody under chapter 4 of the l999 constitution (as amended) and other international instruments on Human rights to which Nigeria is a signatory (including of provisions that reiterate the importance of fundamental human rights and advocating for their observance).
The Senate also passed that it should he made binding on the lnspector-General of Police to adhere to policing plans. The national policing plan should be made with inputs from the Police Force Headquarters and all the various Police formations nationwide before the end of each financial year, setting out priorities, objectives, cost implications and expected outcomes of Policing for the next succeeding financial year in order to change budgeting from a top-down approach to a bottom -up approach.
Do You Know Hate Speech Bill Is Still Alive And Well At The Senate?
By Fredrick Nwabufo
Social media/internet freedom is a basic human right. It is unalienable. In the pool of freedoms, it is as basic as the right to exist. Take away the power of thought and expression from a man, and you have a breathing cadaver.
On June 25, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice ruled that the September 2017 internet shutdown ordered by the Togolese government during protests was illegal and an affront to the applicants’ right to freedom of expression, this is according to Business and Human Rights Resource, which also reported that ‘’the court ordered the government of Togo to pay two million CAF to the plaintiffs as compensation and to take all the necessary measures to guarantee the implementation of safeguards with respect to the right to freedom of expression of the Togolese people’’.
The 2009 UN resolution on freedom of opinion and expression accentuates the primacy of the internet on human rights. The resolution foregrounds ‘’the importance of all forms of the media, including the Internet, in the exercise, promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, calling on states to facilitate equal participation in, access to and use of ICTs, applying a gender perspective’’.
This right is what Nigeria’s lawmakers at the national assembly seek to arrest and banish.
On November 6, 2019, the Senate introduced a bill seeking to regulate social media in the country. The proposed legislation entitled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations bill, 2019’ was sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, senator representing Niger east – a district in the thrall of bandits. The bill has passed the first reading.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Nigeria needs the legislation because it would protect its “fragile unity”.
It proposes a fine of N150,000 or three years imprisonment for any offender and accords the government the carte blanche to shut down the internet – like in some authoritarian regimes across Africa.
A week after the anti-social media bill was floated; the senate introduced a bill seeking to establish a commission for the prohibition of hate speech in Nigeria. The bill entitled, ‘National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019’ was couriered by Sabi Abdullahi, the deputy majority whip of the senate.
The bill prescribed death by hanging for any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person.
It said crime is committed when: “A person publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and/or visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or persons from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.’’
While the hate speech bill exists still at the senate – it has not been withdrawn and the courier has insisted it will not be pulled out – the anti-social media bill is currently at the committee stage of the legislative process.
Interrogating these bills, it is clear they are symptoms of the fear of a failing administration. Only a failing government will be afraid of citizens’ criticisms on social media or interpret civil actions as subversion. If the government was living up to expectations, it would not need to worry about social media.
The anti-social media bill, for instance, which the courier said is designed to protect Nigeria’s ‘’fragile unity’’ is the fallout of critical takes at the government on social platforms by citizens who have elected to be defiant owing to the vacancy of a viable opposition. The sponsor, Musa Sani, once cited the controversy over the hoaxed wedding of the president on social media as the inclination for his pursuit.
Also, the hate speech bill leaves many grey areas. How do you define hate speech? Hate speech is simply according to whoever defines it, and in this case – the government. The proposed legislation was conceived to be a slave whip to suppress dissent and to drown citizens’ voices against the rising insecurity of which the instigators are perceived to be from one section of the country.
Nigeria being what it is, there is no telling how things will turn out. We could all carry on, only waking up after a journalist; a critic or anyone at all is arrested based on these inchoate legislations.
The Centre for Liberty (CFL) has been on passionate advocacy for the termination of these two bills through its Digital Freedom Advocacy (DFA), sponsored by Voice. It has embarked on citizens’ actions, mobilising voices and consciences against the gestating anti-people legislations. And the non-governmental organisation, supported by the Voice, has shown resolve of not relenting until these bills are decapitated and interred. Nigerians must, as well, lend their support and voices to this cause. It concerns us all.
Really, these bills are in the pursuit of fear, repression and autocracy. They have not been put to sleep yet at the senate. Nigerians must stay woke.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
COVID-19: PTF Chairman Says Another Lockdown Looms If…
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, Monday, during the daily briefing of the Taskforce in Abuja stated that there may be another lockdown.
Boss Mustapha said the Taskforce will not shy away from recommending another lockdown to be imposed on the country should the need arises.
The PTF chairman said; “As to whether we would advise Mr. President to consider another lockdown, I have said it here that lockdowns might not be popular but what will happen in the preceding weeks will determine.
“Madagascar has imposed a lockdown in spite of its herbal cure. About 39 states in the US because of the Thanksgiving Holiday and their National Day celebration on the 4th of June have begun to see spikes in their figures and the speed with which they were considering the ease of lockdown, a lot of states have slowed down.
“We have now isolated 11 local governments. We started with 20 but the dynamics of figures that keep jumping every week, there are now about 11 local governments that we have advised the sub-nationalities to consider precision lockdowns in these areas.”
He warned that the attitude of Nigerians in the coming days would determine whether there should be a need for another round of lockdown to be imposed in Nigeria.
“I believe as the days and weeks ahead would present, I will not be speculative as to what would happen in the future, but we will do everything within our mandate to ensure the safety and the protection of the well-being of the people of Nigeria.
“If that would require a recommendation of a lockdown, this Taskforce will not shy away from its responsibilities. We will take that decision. We will make our recommendations to Mr. President who will finally decide but we would first take a decision on our side as members of this Taskforce within the context of the mandate that has been given to us and make that recommendation.
“But such a decision or advice being taken now would be speculative. What would happen in the next two to three weeks would determine what would eventually be our recommendation.”
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