Senator Ekwunife missed voting on electronic transmission to commission projects

Senator Ekwunife says her absence at the time of voting was not deliberate.

Senator Uche Ekwunife says she fully supports the electronic transmission of election results without exceptions [ThisDay]

Senator Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central - PDP) says she missed the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill because she was commissioning projects in her constituency.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the high-profile bill last week with tensions flaring especially on the provision regarding the electronic transmission of votes.

Senators were forced to individually vote on the section of the bill during plenary because the usual voice vote was considered inadequate by Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South - PDP).

In the end, majority of senators, all on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), voted that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Assembly must first approve of the use of electronic transmission before it can be deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The controversial section has angered many Nigerians, and some of the criticism has been directed at the 28 senators, including Ekwunife, that missed the vote that was split 52-28.

In her response to queries by her constituents, the lawmaker said her absence at the time of voting was never deliberate.

She explained that at the time of voting, she had travelled to her constituency to commission some projects, including a block of classrooms for a community school, a perimeter fence project in the school, and a 3-bedroom bungalow for an underprivileged constituent.

"The deliberation on the electoral act which was supposed to come up on Wednesday was moved to Thursday and was expected to stretch to Monday, July 19, for voting.

"However during the plenary on Thursday, after some of us had travelled, Senators present extended plenary hours to vote on the electronic transmission in order to conclude it the same day, instead of continuing on Monday, which was why the Senate plenary lasted till 9 pm," she said.

Ekwunife apologised for missing the vote, noting that she'd never deliberately shy away from such an important activity.

The 50-year-old said she fully supports electronic transmission of votes without the conditions passed by the Senate.

She said instant electronic transmission of election results will address many of the challenges facing Nigeria's electoral process, and should be mandatory in all polling units and collation centres without exceptions.

Ekwunife's presence is unlikely to have changed the result of last week's vote as more of other 27 lawmakers absent are members of the APC that would have very likely voted along party lines.

The bill will be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari who is expected to sign it into law, following his controversial rejection of a similar bill in 2018.

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