Awka – The PDP Governors’ Forum has warned the National Assembly that any further delay in passing and assenting to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will do grievous and irreparable damage to preparations for the conduct of the 2023 elections in Nigeria.
The warning is coming as the National Assembly returns from its recess.
The PDP Governor’s Forum is also asking the legislature, to immediately set up its Conference Committee that will harmonise the different versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bills passed by both Chambers, with a clear mandate to harken to the wishes of Nigerians and be guided by the national interest, particularly on the issue of electronic transmission of results.
The Governors explained that their intervention,is predicted on the need to ensure a free, fair and credible election, that strengthens Nigeria’s democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law, as only a credible election will guarantee accountability and good governance in Nigeria.
According to a statement on Tuesday, by the Chairman of the forum and governor of Sokoto state, Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Senate and House of Representatives (House) Conference Committee when set up, should adopt the House version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on the issue of Electronic Transmission.
The statement read; “It should be noted that Section 52(2) of the House version says: “Voting at an election and transmission of result under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.” and Section 52 (2) of the Senate version provides: “The Commission may consider electronic transmission of results provided that the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.”
“The Senate version which subjects the decision of INEC to deploy electronic transmission to the decision of the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Assembly, is manifestly a usurpation of the powers of INEC and offends relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution that guarantees INEC’s autonomy and independence.”
The group said it recognizes that INEC has demonstrated the capacity to transmit votes electronically, both in recent off season elections and with the introduction and deployment of the Biomodel Voters Accreditation System (BVAs), used in the recent bye-election in Delta State.
It however said “it is necessary to remind the Senate and House Conferees that both Chambers had already approved in S.63(5) of the Bill as follows: “The Presiding officer shall transmit the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.”
“It is obvious that S.52 (2) of the Senate version is manifestly inconsistent with S.63 (5) contained in the same Bill. No doubt, S.63 (5) which both Chambers approved is consistent with S.52 (2) of the House version and should be upheld by the Conference Committee.
“The Conference has no choice but to adopt the House version as to do otherwise would lead to unnecessary complications and conflicts even within the Bill.”
The PDP Governors also requested the National Assembly Conference Committee to jettison the House of Representatives decision that has the effect of forcing all political parties to adopt only one method of conducting primaries.
It said it is of the view that political parties should be allowed discretion to adopt either direct or indirect primaries in their Constitutions and in practice.
“The Senate version that retains the original provision in the Electoral Act should be adopted in the interest of the growth of our political parties and freedom of choice, the hallmark of a functional democracy,” it said.
The governors urged Nigerians to rise and demand no less from her politicians, insisting that it is only credible elections that put the power in the hands of the people.
“This is not a partisan issue. It is not a regional or religious matter. The National Assembly should act in a patriotic manner as representatives of the people of Nigeria,” the forum concluded.