By Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Opeyemi Bamidele has said he did not vote against electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said he was one of the few Senators who fought hard for inclusion of electronic transmission of results in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
He said he has remained consistent in his legislative work in the overriding public interest.
He said some senators from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were grandstanding on the floor of the Senate to run a smear campaign against All Progressives Congress (APC) senators ahead of 2023 general elections.
Bamidele, who is a member of the Senate Committee on INEC, explained his roles on Electoral Act Amendment Bill in a statement in Abuja.
He gave insights into what transpired in the Senate and expressed concerns over misrepresentations by PDP.
He said: “In order that no one who knows me and what I have always stood for would be in doubt as to where I stand, I wish to place on record that I am fully in support of the passage of Section 52(3) of the proposed Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) powers to transmit election results electronically.
“ Let it be known also that I am specifically a member of the Senate Committee on INEC, which, in addition to electronic voting contained in Section 52 (2), recommended and ensured the inclusion of this electronic transmission clause 52 (3) in our Committee report submitted to the Senate for deliberation and passage. The said report, known as the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill carries both my name and signature.
“We did this in response to the popular desire of a cross section of Nigerians, including stakeholders who participated in our public hearing, as well as in recognition of and compliance with global best practice standard in electoral law and procedure.
“For the records, we had specifically recommended in our report that INEC might electronically transfer election results “where and when practicable.”
“As it is the practice in parliamentary procedure, our Committee, which made this recommendation, is, like any other standing committee of the Senate, only a SUB-COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE once the entire Senate sits to consider the report and clause by clause passage of the proposed Bill.
“At this point, any Senator shall have the right and privilege to propose amendment to any of the clauses proposed in the sub-committee’s report being considered. This was exactly what happened on the floor of the Nigerian Senate on Thursday, 15th July, 2021.
“The Distinguished Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, expressed concern that the words ‘electronic transmission of results where and when practicable’, as used in our report, were rather nebulous and could lead to arbitrary intervention and implementation.
“He also opined that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), being the regulatory institution in charge of communication infrastructure across the country, should be made to work with INEC in determining the “where and when practicable” desire in our report to ensure that Voters in rural communities without access to communication network are not disenfranchised or the results of their elections compromised, relying on a report that only about 43 per cent of the Nigerian rural communities so far have access to communication network service.”
Opeyemi clarified that Senators only disagreed on which versions of the two drafts on electronic transmission of results should be approved.
He added: “This was the issue before the Senate. While every Senator present and voting was in support of electronic transmission of election results (which is a good development for Nigeria), there was a division between the two versions of the draft.
“Distinguished Senator Albert Akpan, representing Akwa Ibom Central Senatorial District, had proposed that the Senate should stick to the recommendation as originally proposed by our sub-committee, as a counter proposal to the amendment sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
“So, the Senate became divided between those who voted ‘.’YES’ to electronic transmission of results “where and when practicable” and those who voted ‘NO’ to what they described as nebulous version in support of an amendment they believed would ensure that INEC was guided by data and scientific realities.
“The voting and subsequent division was not about making a choice between supporting or rejecting electronic transmission of election results because we all agreed to it.”
He accused some PDP Senators of taking undue advantage of normal parliamentary procedure.
He said: “When the Senate Minority Leader called for a division, we all thought it was a normal parliamentary procedure to ensure accurate result of voting on the floor of parliament.
“But subsequent events and calculated attempts to manipulate facts and misinform the public since then have shown that there was more to it than met the eye as the PDP had taken it beyond their grandstanding on the floor of the Senate to working so hard to run a smear campaign against APC Senators as if their voting ‘no’ was in rejection of electronic transmission of results.
“Of course, 2023 is getting nearer and, expectedly, though unfortunately, PDP is becoming more restless, more aggressive and more determined to manipulate its way back into power. But I think we all should still be mindful of what we do when we are making laws for the people.”
Bamidele said he has been an advocate of electoral reforms as part of his agenda for contesting election to the Senate.
He said: “Electoral reforms constitute a major part of my agenda for contesting election to the Senate because I am convinced on the need to sanitize and stabilize our electoral process so as to stabilize our polity and, by implication, stabilize our economy.
“ I am happy my membership of the Senate Committee is affording me the opportunity to be actively involved in fundamental discussions, engagements, drafting and voting processes aimed at strengthening our democracy. Do I support that INEC be given powers to transmit election results electronically? Absolutely, yes. Did I canvass that position at my Committee level? YES.
“Did the Committee boldly introduce this clause into the draft Electoral Amendment Bill submitted to the Senate for consideration? YES, as it clearly carries my name and signature. Should I have allowed myself to be misguided by the manipulation of those who would not want additional input and reasonable and data driven amendments to our report on the floor of the Senate? NO.
“Am I driven by overriding public interest in my voting on the amendment to our sub-committee version of Section 52 (3) of the proposed Bill? YES.
“Guided by the same overriding public interest that made me endorse a recommendation of our same sub-committee (Senate Committee on INEC) to the same Senate rejecting a Presidential nomination into INEC as National Electoral Commissioner just less than forty eight hours before the voting on Electoral Bill.
“ It is also the same overriding public interest principle which has guided me in sponsoring several Bills and Motions aimed at achieving judicial reforms, social reforms, economic reforms, electoral reforms, youth and women development, deepening diaspora participation in our political process and far reaching constitutional amendment and reforms.”
He assured his supporters and admirers that he has not betrayed the trust reposed in him.
He said: “I am consistently who I am: Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, a product of the collective struggle of the Nigerian youth, students and Pro-Democracy movement. More than most people who grandstand on the floor of the Nigerian parliament today, I, most respectfully, submit that I have more Stakeholders to account to for my actions and inactions, in addition to my Constituents who massively and happily elected me to serve in this capacity.
“ Above all, I am accountable to God Almighty who has saved me to serve and I will faithfully serve Him and humanity to the best of my ability. That is my stand for those who are interested in knowing where I stand on these issues.
“Beyond this, I may not comment any further on this issue as the Senate, as an institution, has an officially appointed Spokesman who would continue to explain the rationale behind every decision of the Senate.
“But let the innocent public beware of political manipulation and let it be known that if an election was to be conducted today and INEC runs into logistic problems in its efforts to electronically transmit results in some remote parts of the country, these same PDP gladiators would be the first to shout that they were being rigged out.
“So, I believe it is important to make NCC submit to INEC for the specific purpose of assisting the electoral umpire in determining the availability of necessary infrastructure and technical capacity to do so long clearly before election.
“If we are wrong on this, let it be the people themselves that will tell us so and if the law is deemed to be invalid, let it be the Judiciary, as the watchdog of democracy, that will shut it down. Not the grandstanding, intimidation or smear campaign of a desperate and self-serving political opposition platform.”
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