Issued in Abuja: 10:00am, Tuesday, 6th July 2021
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room notes the efforts of the National Assembly to conclude considerations and pass the Electoral Bill, 2021. However, Situation Room is deeply concerned about the proposed provision of clause 50 (2) of the bill, which states as follows:
“Voting at an election under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting, PROVIDED that the Commission shall not transmit results of elections by electronic means.”
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society and other election stakeholders have advocated for improvements to the electoral process, particularly, the use of technology in elections, to improve efficiency and transparency. It was expected that in addition to providing requisite legal backing to the use of the Smart Card Reader, which was introduced in 2015, the re-enactment of the Electoral Act would also provide the legal framework for INEC to deepen the use of technology in elections. The Commission on its part has been working to introduce new technology into elections and has welcomed demonstrations of relevant technological devices from developers, to that end.
The proposed provision of clause 50 (2) will only undermine INEC’s power and discretion to make any far-reaching progress on the use of technology in elections. Providing for electronic voting but prohibiting electronic transmission of results is restrictive and hardly constitutes meaningful progress in this regard. The extant Electoral Act has been amended three times since its enactment in 2010. Since a bill for its repeal and re-enactment was presented to the 9th National Assembly in 2020, several stakeholders have made efforts towards a holistic reform of the law, with a view to paving way for major milestones in the Nigerian electoral system.
It is important to note that over the years, election reports of several accredited observers have identified the collation process as a weak link in elections. The process, often shrouded in human interference and other unforeseen occurrences sometimes results in lack of transparency, efficiency and accountability, capable of undermining the credibility of the entire electoral process. This is a challenge that can be tackled by electronic transmission of results, if implemented properly.
Another issue of concern is the significant increase made to the limits for election expenses in clause 88 of the draft bill, with that of presidential election increased from N5billion to N15billion and that of governorship election from N1billion to N5billion. The limit for senatorial election was increased from N100million to N1.5billion and for House of Representatives election, it was increased from N70million to N500million. Increased limits for election expenses will make the monitoring of campaign finances more difficult. The dominance of money politics in Nigeria’s elections is detrimental, as finances constitute a major hindrance to the inclusion of marginalised groups in politics, including women and youths and persons with disabilities. Situation Room therefore, urges the National Assembly to review these provisions to allow for inclusivity in elections.
Passing the Electoral Bill, 2021 into law without addressing the salient issue of the use of technology will largely undermine the gains recorded so far in Nigeria’s elections and the efforts of stakeholders in this regard. Situation Room therefore calls on the National Assembly to reconsider the provisions of the Electoral Bill, 2021, particularly clause 50 (2), to allow for both electronic voting and electronic transmission of results. Accordingly, Situation Room calls on the National Assembly to pass the provision of clause 50 (2) that reflects the version of the draft bill agreed on by the joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on INEC and Electoral Matters, which is as follows:
“Voting at an election and transmission of result under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.”
This is what will constitute a major improvement in elections and the deepening of Nigeria’s democracy. Otherwise, this will amount to democracy without freedom. In the year 2020, Covid-19 showed the world that technology is the way forward and has come to stay. Anything short of electronic voting and electronic transmission of results will be unacceptable.
Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria numbering more than seventy. The Steering Committee is made up of: Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Women and Adolescent Empowerment, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), African Centre for Entrepreneurship and Information Development (ACEIDEV), Justice Development and Peace Commission (JPDC) Nnewi, ASPILOS Foundation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Mac-Jim Foundation, Kimpact Development Initiative, Democratic Action Group (DAG), Women’s Rights to Education Programme, EDO CSOs, Young Innovators and Vocational Training Initiative (YVITI), New Initiative for Social Development (NISD). Other groups are Centre LSD, CISLAC, WARD-C, Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI), Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, JDPC, YIAGA Africa, Development Dynamics, Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN), Stakeholder Democracy Network, Human Rights Monitor, Reclaim Naija, CITAD, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR) Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), Electoral Hub etc