Voting Behaviour in Nigeria’s National Assembly: Focus on the 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill in the 9th Senate

Tom, Samuel Etim (2022-05)


Voting in parliament x-rays the different patterns of voting choices expressed by the National Assembly Legislators, the circumstances that surrounded the passage of the bill into law, the preference of members which also carries the weight of the convictions of their constituents, political party, or lobby group they represent. Whereas the literature has examined the determinants of voting patterns in other spheres such as in periodic elections, the debate that came with the need to vote for electronic transmission of election results during the consideration of the 2010 Electoral Amendment Bill, offers an opportunity to contribute to the literature. The broad objective of this study is to examine the voting behavior in the 9th Senate regarding the electronic transmission of votes as provided by the 2010 Electoral Amendment Bill. The specific objectives are: (1) Examine the factors that shape voting choices on the 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021 in the Nigerian Senate, and (2) What are the reasons for the voting preferences expressed by Senators on the 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021. Data was collected from secondary sources (Senate order paper and National dailies) on how the voting was done in the Senate regarding Section 52 (3) of the 2010 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021. While the Senators that voted were also interviewed, a questionnaire was also administered to randomly selected respondents to ascertain their opinion on the factors that influenced the voting pattern of Senators. The sample size involved 79 Senators and 258 respondents randomly selected outside the National Assembly to document their responses on factors they perceived as playing a role in the voter choice of the Senators. The target population are stakeholders in the nations electoral space. These include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Civil Society Organizations, Nigerian citizens aged 18 and above, and so on. The response obtained is analyzed using descriptive analysis (frequencies, percentages, and charts) processed using SPSS and MS Excel With regards to objective one, it was found that the vote of the Senators was not against electronic voting. Rather, it was about who should have the final say on whether election results should be transmitted electronically. The recommendation of the Senate Committee on the Election Amendment Bill is that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should determine, when possible, of practicable it is to transmit the result. On the other hand, the amendment to the committee recommended by the Deputy Whip of the Senate is that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) should decide when it is safe and secured to transit electronically. Analysis of the voting pattern for the recommendation by the deputy whip showed that by Political Party line, 4% (2 out of 52) PDP Senators voted in favour while APC Senators votes accounted for 96% (50 out of 52). By Northern and Southern categorization, Northern voters accounted for 75% of votes in favour while Southern votes account for 25%. By gender, five female Senators were present during the votes of which three voted in favour. These females are Oluremi Tinubu (APC Lagos Central), Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (APC Adamawa Central), and Senator Dadu’ut Ladi (APC Plateau South). All were APC. On the other hand, the committee recommendation is that: the Commission (INEC) may transmit the results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable. By party lines, 27 people voted in favour of this option. All were PDP members. By geopolitical zone, the South-South had the highest number of votes in favour of the committee recommendation. This is followed by the Southeast and the Southwest. The northern zones generally had a low preference for the Committee recommendation. Along gender lines, two women: Betty Apiafi (PDP - Rivers West), and Eyankeyi Akon Etim (Akwa Ibom - South); out of the five women present, voted in favour of the committee recommendation. Analysis of questionnaires and interviews conducted showed that membership of a lobby group and interaction with constituents influenced the voting pattern observed with the votes for electronic transmission. Analysis of proportions also showed that interaction with constituents had more influence on the vote of those who voted following the Committee recommendation than being a member of a lobby group. Analysis of the citizen's responses showed that partisanshi Qp was a major determinant in the voting preference of Senators with a total of 53% of respondents, in favour. Party loyalty was another factor found to play a role in the voting behavior of the Senators as 51% of 258 respondents, agreed. While 61.6% of the respondents agreed that INEC is capable of transmitting votes electronically, the state of the nation’s internet infrastructure development would play a significant role in determining the feasibility. The study recommended that building the trust of the electorate in INEC and developing the nation's internet infrastructure and ICT security, would enhance public confidence in INEC transmitting voter results electronically. The study also recommends continuous testing of the electronic component of the electoral system as well as the transmission of voter results using off-cycle elections before the main elections in 2023. The voting behavior of Nigerian Legislators should be more citizen-centric to build public trust in the process of lawmaking.