Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Electoral Act Amendment: Buhari returns bill to NASS

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  • Faults direct primaries, Cites insecurity

Review direct primaries clause, send document back for assent, President tells N’Assembly

President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the National Assembly to remove the clause that has to do with direct primaries from the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Buhari stated this in his letter to the Senate on Monday, asked the National Assembly to remove the controversial clause on direct primaries from the bill and return the proposed law to him for assent.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed to one of our correspondents that Buhari had sent the letter to the National Assembly.

According to Punch, a source privy to the content of the letter said the President refused assent because political parties had their various constitutions that stipulated mode of primaries that should be adopted.

Primary mode against party constitutions, too expensive, small parties will be marginalised
According to the source, the President argued that it would be unconstitutional to force parties to adopt direct primaries.

He also said small parties will be marginalised.

“With these reasons, the President has returned the bill to the National Assembly, asking the lawmakers to look at the clause that has to do with direct primaries by political parties, work on it and return the document for assent because it will compound insecurity in the country,” the source added.

The bill was transmitted to the President on November 19, 2021, after both chambers of the National Assembly passed shortly before a tripartite meeting with the APC leadership and the governors.

Shehu said, “It (letter to the Senate) is a privileged communication so it is for them (National Assembly) to disclose the contents.”

Top sources who spoke to The PUNCH said the President had declined assent because of the controversial direct primary which virtually all political parties had rejected.

The bill was transmitted to the President on November 19, 2021, after both chambers of the National Assembly hurriedly passed it against the wishes of the leadership of the APC.

Apart from mandatory direct primaries, the bill also makes a provision for electronic transmission of results by INEC and increases the limit for election spending by candidates.

However, the APC Governors Forum led by Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State had rejected the bill because of the direct primary issue.

Amid the raging controversy, the President wrote a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission seeking the view of INEC over the matter.

He also wrote to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who took sides with the APC governors.

Malami pointedly told the President that forcing all political parties to adopt direct primaries would be a recipe for disaster and confusion.

However, several Civil Rights Organisations put pressure on the President to sign the bill mainly because it empowers INEC to transmit election results electronically and direct primaries would ensure that governors would not be able to impose their candidates on others.

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