The media have recently reported that the much-anticipated Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 does not provide for the electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Section 50 (2) of the said bill states that: “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.”
This provision, or any other with the same intent, is troubling for many reasons. One, electronic transmission of election results is a popular demand by Nigerians who are keen to see significant improvements in the country’s electoral processes and outcomes. To pass a law to deny the wish of the people is tantamount to a legislative coup by the National Assembly. This must be avoided.
Two, the National Assembly will further erode its credibility if it decides against a reasonable and popular legislative demand. This will further delegitimise the country’s democracy.
Three, by specifically disallowing INEC from using electronic means to transmit election results, the National Assembly would be passing a law that hamstrings an institution of the state from carrying out its function to the best possible outcome.
Four, without electronic transmission of results, a new electoral law would, at best, only introduce cosmetic changes, while essentially helping to perpetuate rigging of elections.
In an earlier advocacy statement by To Build A Nation (TBAN) on this subject, we outlined the benefits of electronic transmission of results in drastically curbing election rigging and violence, including arsonist attacks on INEC’s facilities and polling materials. Electronic transmission of results is also an important framework for enabling diaspora voting.
Our findings confirm the availability of practical and inexpensive technological solutions for electronic transmission of election results from any polling unit in the country where voting is actually possible. Therefore, the excuse of impracticality of transmitting election results by electronic means only denies the reality.
The National Assembly should no longer delay the passage of the new electoral bill with a provision for electronic transmission of results. The INEC needs time to be able to operationalise this and other provisions of a new Electoral Act ahead of the 2023 general election.
To Build A Nation is a non-partisan political action group of Nigerian citizens. Prof. Kingsley Moghalu is the convener of TBAN.