The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared as absolutely unconstitutional, the provison by the National Assembly that the Commission gets the approval of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) before electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate had in July passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill with an amendment that NCC should determine when electronic transmission is deployed, subject to the approval of the National Assembly.
But INEC said this is contrary to section 160 of the Constitution as amended which gives the Commission power to by rules or otherwise regulate its own activities and impose duties on any officer or authority in the land for the purposes of carrying out its function and not the other way round.
INEC National Commissioner in charge of Electoral Operations, Okechukwu Ibeanu stated this while responding to questions at the third quarterly meeting of the Commission and Media Organisations in Abuja on Tuesday.
Ibeanu said INEC cannot be compelled to transmit election results with the approval of another agency of government when it has powers to impose duties on NCC to achieve the transmission of electronic results.
“Section 160 of the Constitution…if you look at it, it essentially talks about two things, the powers of the Commission to by rules or otherwise regulate its own activities and secondly, the powers of the Commission to impose duties on any officer or authority in the land for the purposes of carrying out its function.
“…If you look at the history of that amendment, it was really in the context of the entire debate about ensuring the true independence of the Commission. That was a context which means that those who framed this were essentially propelled by the need to ensure that the Commission is independent.
“Now, let me then tie this to this whole suggestion by the National Assembly that to transmit results electronically, INEC has to clear with the NCC. That is absolutely unconstitutional. You cannot say that INEC to transmit the election result has to get the approval of another agency of government when actually; INEC has powers to impose duties on NCC to achieve the transmission of electronic results.
“So this is my reading of section 160 but I completely agree with you that in the context of underscoring, the independence of the Commission Section 160 has done everything that it needs to do. What is left is for INEC to use the powers it has under the Constitution to achieve this” the Professor explained.
Responding to other questions, INEC Director of ICT, Chidi Nwanfor said the Commission will not consult the NCC before deploying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for fingerprint authentication and where it fails for facial authentication in the forthcoming bye-elections and the Anambra governorship polls.
Nwanfori also disclosed that as of 2018 there was not less than 94% of 2G network coverage in the whole country which is capable of uploading elections results.
This is against the earlier NCC declaration before the House of Representatives during the Electoral Act Amendment Bill stalemate that only 50% of Polling Units across the country have 3G network that can enable electronic transmission of election results.
“INEC has no intention to consult NCC on any of its duties. What we are demonstrating has something to do with accreditation not the transmission of results. We are not consulting NCC. We are talking of accreditation where the data is resident on the system. What are you doing with internet? Accreditation doesn’t need internet.
“As of 2018, we have not less than 94% of 2G coverage in the whole country. To upload our results, we are covered over that now so the issue of internet should not come in. Is there any way this could affect the process? Capital no”, he stressed.
On his part, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu agreed that there was nothing the Commission will say about the electronic transmission of election results that it has not said before but assured of capacity building for the staff handling the technological devices been deployed.
He also maintained that unless the present laws are amended, Nigerians cannot vote anywhere they are without going to their polling units though technology was enough for such exercise.
“Anyway, in Nigeria, technically, speaking actually right now citizens can vote anywhere in Nigeria, but the law says that you can only vote where you register.
“Until the law is, amended to say that this should be the case, the present provision of the law is that you only vote where you are registered. So you can’t vote where you are not registered,” he said.