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HAVE YOU READ THE ELECTORAL ACT 2022?
After the February 2023 Presidential Election, many theories concerning the procedure of transmission of the elections arose. There were insinuations and conspiracy theories therefrom. Two of the theories deserve our interest. The first theory was by Senator Dino Melaye of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who challenged the conduct of the elections at the National Collation Centre, the International Conference Centre, ICC in Abuja, citing Section 50(2) of the Electoral Act 2022. According to Senator Melaye, that section of the Act says that voting at an election and the transmission of result shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, that is through the BVAS. Therefore, and according to the distinguished Senator, the manual method that INEC resorted to, in announcing the February 2023 Presidential Elections ran afoul of that section of the Act. Together with other aggrieved parties, he walked out of the collation centre.
The second individual who pushed his own version of the transmission of the results was Senator Ahmed Lawan, president of the Senate. As president of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmed Lawan said it was he who presided over debates, discussions and the entire processes that led to passage of the Act. When the problems associated with an electronic transmission of the 2023 presidential elections through the BVAS came up, Senator Lawan said, ‘there is nothing like electronic transmission in the Electoral Act. Transmission means when you vote, your vote goes to the server. What we have passed, and I can recollect this vividly, because I read it several times before it was passed, is to transfer after all the paper works like we already do, is for all the party agents and the security people, INEC will then snap and transfer or transmit the record of the election to the BIVAS’, Distinguished Senator Lawan said in a recorded report by Africa Independent Television, (AIT).
Whilst all this was going on, many Nigerians were first stunned and therefore bewildered at the back and forth over the manner of transmission of the result of the elections. INEC had told Nigerians that with the introduction of the BVAS, every single vote during the election was going to be electronically transmitted to a certain secure server, and in real time, and Nigerians will all have access to the results of the election.
Most of the references was about one document – the Electoral Act – which set the rules for the conduct of the elections. And so, as most Nigerians continued to be angry about the conduct of the elections, I realized that it would be silly to continue to argue back and forth if we know the contents of the Electoral Act 2022. So, this week, I ask: Have You Read the Electoral Act 2022? Do you know exactly what is inside the document beyond being an Obidient, a BAT or an Articulated?
Prior to the scenario created from the electronic transmission of the February elections, I made only one attempt to read the Act. I found it filled with legalese and a put off so I discarded it. But now, I had to plod through it. I found out that the relevant sections are Sections 41 – 63. The first thing that struck me was the absence of the word BVAS. There was no mention whatsoever of a BVAS machine in the Act. And even though there were references to ‘electronic transmission’ of results, a caveat in a certain section says that the INEC is allowed to transmit the results of the elections in any manner the commission deems fit.
Let me try to analyse these two observations of mine: if the BVAS machine was not mentioned in the Electoral Act, how come INEC spent so much money on a piece of machine that had no effect whatever in ensuring that the elections would be foolproof? I got an answer from a senior lawyer in Abuja. According to him, the BVAS has nothing to do with the transmission of results but with the accreditation of registered voters at the polling units and booths. Therefore, and according to this learned lawyer, if there were any glitches with the transmission of the results, the Electoral Act gives INEC power to transmit results in a manner it deems fit.
The second issue is with an ‘electronic transmission’ of results. What does that mean really? Does it mean that transmitting the results must be via the BVAS and BVAS only? Transmitting the results through a MICROPHONE (which is an electronic device) can also be a transmission of information, message and what have you.
And therefore, this is my take: most politicians had studied the Electoral Act 2022 and found out some of these loopholes (and there are very many of them) which they manipulated to their advantage. Coming out of this is my plea to Nigerians and the policymakers – first to Nigerians: read the Electoral Act 2022, study and understand it. After you study and understand it, you are likely to join me in a campaign to ask the policymakers at the National Assembly to repeal, review or revise sections of that document. The loopholes are legion.
Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, Benin City