Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The National Assembly Cannot Give What It Never Had

In his 1989 classic, Beast of No Nation, the legendary Afrobeat artist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, alluded to the truism that human dignity and rights cannot be given. They are innate as they are inalienable. The song says, “make you hear me very well, human rights na my property. So, therefore, you can’t dash me my property.”

Just like human rights cannot be given, the Nigerian Senate cannot give INEC the right to transmit results electronically. It is within their purview and also backed by the constitution.

After a majority vote against the electronic transmission of results – an outcome determined by mostly APC senators – the Senate in a recent amendment has now resolved that “voting at an election and transmission of results under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission, which may include electronic voting.”  Although many have commended the Senate for this amendment, it was never in their place to make such an amendment in the first instance.

Section 160 of the 1999 constitution empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the power to “regulate its procedure and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions.” It therefore goes without saying that INEC, being an independent body, does not need the approval of the National Assembly to implement the electronic transmission of results. Indeed, when INEC deployed the technology in the Edo and Ondo state gubernatorial elections, it did not seek the approval of the National Assembly. So, what changed?

It is worth reiterating that the National Assembly has not given (or allowed) INEC the power to transmit results electronically. It cannot provide INEC with an authority that it already has.


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