Indeed, office of the citizen is the highest office in Nigeria. After almost 6 years of continuous advocacy (protests, FOI requests, media engagements and citizen education) for an open, transparent and accountable National Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said voting by members of the chamber on serious legislations will become electronic. The Speaker also said the House of Representatives will adopt electronic attendance register. It is a good feat coming from the Femi Gbajabiamila's led House of Representatives and we hope the Senate replicates the same too.
The Speaker noted that e-voting was introduced as part of the reforms by his leadership. He said, “In front of you on your seats, you have little panels that we installed. This is in keeping with some of the reforms we have talked about, that Nigerians will see. By tomorrow, I expect it to be fully operational. The whole system is based on the fact that we will soon now be having e-voting in this chamber.
“Now, this will not be applicable to all motions and bills because we have several of them. For those that we consider important and of significance, we will be adopting the e-voting system. We don’t need your voting cards anymore, you only need to press a button; and it tells you who voted, which side they voted for.
“This is for the purpose of accountability which we have promised Nigerians. Everybody needs to be accountable to their constituents, to make sure we are doing exactly what they asked us to come and do here. So, I am glad to announce that progress has been made. I believe that by tomorrow, everything will be fully operational.”
The Speaker also announced that Internet facility had been provided in and around the building to aid legislative activities.
“Secondly, the building and the premises are now fully wi-fi enabled. So, it will be more convenient for members, especially those who want to do their research both in the offices and around the offices, moving forward from today,” Gbajabiamila said.
The advocacy and demands of #OpenNASS has remained in the mainstream of discussions over the past six years. By Gbajabiamila's position on electronic voting and electronic attendance register getting implemented for the House of Representatives - two of the #OpenNASS advocacy campaign has been partly achieved.
Instructively, the #OpenNASS advocacy basic goals are: 1. Make public details of the National Assembly’s budget. 2. Replace voice voting with electronic voting so citizens can track their representatives. 3. Maintain a functional website and make public the attendance records at plenary.
As active citizens, we’ve got the power and the advocacy is not yet over! It is not enough to adopt electronic voting and attendance register, the voting records and attendance register must be made public on the National Assembly’s website. Citizens should be able to track how their representatives voted and who attends plenaries.
The National Assembly is a critical institution in our democracy and we will ensure that it is repurposed to serve all Nigerians, not just a few.
We implore the citizens to continually demand for transparency and accountability from their elected officials and keep them on their toes to ensure that governance works for all Nigerians, not for selected few.
Author – Ishola Adebayo