By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The PDP Governors’ Forum has urged the National Assembly on resumption to immediately set up its Conference Committee to harmonise the different versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bills passed by both Chambers.
The forum made the appeal in a statement by its Chairman and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal on Tuesday in Abuja.
The forum said that the committee should be set up with a clear mandate to harken to the wishes of Nigerians and be guided by national interest, particularly on the issue of electronic transmission of results.
The PDP governors said any further delay in passing and assenting to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill would do grievous and irreparable damage to preparations for the conduct of the 2023 elections in Nigeria.
The forum requested the Senate and House of Representatives Conference Committee when set up, to adopt the House version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on the issue of electronic transmission.
“It should be noted that Section 52(2) of the House version says:
“Voting at an election and transmission of results under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.”
The forum recalled that Section 52 (2) of the Senate version provides that:
“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 forum said that the senate version which subjects the decision of INEC to deploy electronic transmission to the decision of the NCC and NASS was manifestly usurpation of the powers of INEC.
It added that such also negated relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution that guarantees INEC’s autonomy and independence.
The forum added that it recognised that INEC had demonstrated the capacity to transmit votes electronically.
It stated that such was demonstrated both in recent off season elections and with the introduction and deployment of the Bio model Voters Accreditation System (BVAs), used in the recent bye-election in Delta State.
“Furthermore, 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 had the effect of forcing all political parties to adopt only one method of conducting primaries.
It recalled that the House amended S.87 (1) of the Act, by deleting indirect primaries and mandating only direct primaries.
“The Forum 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 stated that the intervention of the PDP governors was predicated on the need to ensure a free, fair and credible election that will strengthen Nigeria’s democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law.
“Only a credible election will guarantee accountability and good governance which Nigeria so desperately needs today.
“ Nigerians should rise and demand no less from her politicians. 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 governors said.