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National Shame: Nigeria’s satellite body, NIGCOMSAT, fails to connect lawmakers for constitution vote

Reps passed the recommendation for the removal of presidents’, governors’ immunity.
Nigerians’ well-expressed frustration with spending trillions of Naira annually to run barely functional, but supposedly hi-tech institutions, appeared to manifest full-scale Wednesday after top government satellite body, NIGCOMSAT, failed for days to install a functional electronic platform for lawmakers voting on the constitution.

The multi-million Naira project flopped first on Tuesday, forcing a reschedule of the constitution amendment vote at the House of Representatives, and finally on Wednesday, plunging the chamber into a laborious manual voting that ended shortly before 11p.m.

How the Nigerian Communication Satellite body, an office expected to deal with utilizing Nigeria’s satellite functions on broadband internet, tele-education and medicine, marine communication, and navigation services, got into a contract for a direct electronic voting machine installation is not clear.
Amid claims the contract was awarded for several millions of Naira, the House of Representatives denied it paid for the job. A spokesperson said the office only offered to help with the process after it was realised the routine system was faulty.
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That would seem unlikely as the House does not officially accept favours from agencies it oversees. Even so, as an assistance, the funds for the project would likely have been drawn by NIGCOMSAT from the public purse.

What was clear however, was each of the 360 members received a new computer tablet and several new routers were purchased for the failed exercise.
At an average N100, 000 per tablet, that would amount to at least N36 million, exclusive of other spending such as the internet routers and logistics.

As the lawmakers opened finally for business on Tuesday, it turned out it was NIGCOMSAT that was in charge of setting up an improvised system for the voting.
The Director General of the Agency, Ahmed Rufai, apologised to the lawmakers on Tuesday after it failed to go through, urging patience and assuring the service will be functional by Wednesday.

Mr. Rufai said technicians were to work round the night to fix the problem, and counselled members to fully charge their new tablets for the next day.
But the delay continued on Wednesday, and for hours voting failed to start, again drawing apologies from the DG, and a dim pledge to “give up” if the last try failed.
Indeed, that attempt failed forcing the House to commence manual voting that required each member to mark their preferences to 85 clauses, signed them while collation followed.
Collation ended minutes before 11 p.m. Wednesday.

The Reps approved all 85 clauses, removing the immunity on criminal charges against the president and governors, and autonomy for local governments.
The House also approved the separation of the offices of the Attorneys General and those of the Minister or Commissioner of Justice. Those recommendations had earlier been rejected by the Senate.

The House also retained labour in the exclusive list of the federal government, a decision that intends to give the federal government the exclusive right over National Minimum Wage.
The House did not vote on the contentious Section 29(4)(b) dealing with marriage and renunciation of citizenship as its committee made no recommendation on the matter. A decision on that section by the Senate last week, sparked outrage.

Still, the relatively more impressive outcome from the House, are far from becoming laws as they will need to be agreed upon by the Senate and States Houses of Assembly.
Both chambers are to meet and agree on their final voting results, and the harmonised copy will be transmitted to the state legislatures.
- PremiumTimes

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