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House of Reps adopts e-Voting system

By The Citizen

The House of Representatives has resolved to jettison its controversial voting system of shouting 'aye' and 'nay' for a modern electronic voting pattern and the introduction of a full scale e-parliament, it was learnt on Monday.

The Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has already approved the e-voting platform in line with the agenda of the 8th Assembly, the Speaker's Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, confirmed on Monday.

For long, the National Assembly has been criticised for using the 'highly-manipulative' manual voting system in which members either shout 'aye' or 'nay' while voting, to support or oppose an issue on the floor.

Findings showed that a presiding officer like the Speaker, Dogara, or his Deputy, Mr. Suleiman Lasun, could manipulate the votes, using this method, to suit their interests.

The standing orders of the House confer enormous powers on the presiding officer to rule in favour of any side that suits his interest or his political leaning.

For example, where the 'ayes' shout the loudest, but the presiding officer says he believes the 'nays' have shouted the loudest, he rams his gavel in favour of the latter group and the matter closes.

The PUNCH observes that over the years, this wrong ruling has often created tension on the floor of the House and sometimes lead to the exchange of blows or hot words between members.

However, the introduction of e-parliament and the e-voting platform will reduce the chances of manipulating the votes, as the votes of all members will be clearly displayed for all to see.

To kick-start the e-parliament, the Speaker's office said that forms had been distributed to the 360 members of the House 'to collate their data ahead of the production of e-voting cards.'

The Speaker's office explained further, 'The implication of the new system is that records of each member's punctuality and voting patterns can easily be accessed by his/her constituents and members of the public.

'According to details of the Legislative Agenda as adopted by the 8th Assembly early in its life last year, the 8th House commits to the use of Information and Communications Technology in the daily conduct of legislative activities of the House. E-parliament and e-voting platforms will be made a regular feature of the House.

'E-voting will be used regularly during voting to properly reflect voting records of members and parliamentary accountability. The House shall collaborate with relevant stakeholders to achieve the goal of an e-parliament.'

But  The PUNCH gathered that the e-parliament platform would create a new challenge for the majority of lawmakers who are not computer-literate.

A senior legislative official stated, 'These members cannot operate a computer. As a matter of fact, this has been the main factor delaying the introduction of e-parliament by the National Assembly.

'As we speak, their offices are equipped with computers and Internet facilities, but can they operate the systems? No.

'They will face tough times and may likely oppose it or find a reason to ensure that the manual system continues.

'There is even a computer mounted in front of the Speaker's seat as he presides over proceedings.

'None of the Speakers preceding Dogara ever operated system. Dogara himself has hardly been operating it since he assumed office on June 9, 2015.' - Punch.


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