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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Electoral Bill: Buhari Withholds Assent, Says Adopting Direct Primary ‘Violates Spirit Of Democracy’

President Muhammadu Buhari has, in a letter to the national assembly, withheld assent to the electoral act amendment bill, TheCable reports.

The national assembly had, on November 19, transmitted the bill to the president for assent.

Among the amendments are recommendations on direct primaries for political parties and electronic transmission of election results.

According to THISDAY, the president, who kicked against the recommendation on adopting direct primaries, cited concerns on rights violation as well as cost as part of reasons for his refusal to assent to the bill.

“The amendment as proposed is the violation of the underlying spirit of democracy, which is characterised by freedom of choices of which political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right of freedom of association,” the president was quoted as saying in the letter.

The president was also said to have cited other concerns such as security and litigation issues that may arise from adopting direct primary.

“The president said the prevailing situation in the country will not allow him sign the bill. Among other reasons, the president cited high cost of conducting direct primaries, the security challenge of monitoring the election, violation of citizens’ rights, marginalisation of small political parties,” the report reads.

“Buhari also notes that adopting direct primaries has implications on the rights of citizens to participate in the government, as constitutionally insured.

“According to the president, the conduct of direct primaries will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting primary elections by parties, as well as the increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by INEC.

“He explained that the direct consequences of the high cost are monetisation and that it will drive and increase financial crimes and constitute further strain on the economy.

“In his view, it will also stifle smaller parties without the enormous resources required to mobilise all party members for the primaries, a situation which he says is not healthy for the sustainance of multi-party democracy in Nigeria.

“The president further states that security agencies will also be overstretched, as direct primaries will be open to participation from all and sundry.

“Such large turnout without effective security coordination will also engender intimidation and disruptions, thereby raising credibility issues on the outcomes of such election.

“President Buhari also says the proposed amendment might give rise to a plethora of litigations based on diverse grounds and issues of law, including but not limited to the fact that the proposed amendment could not work in retrospect, given that the existing constitution of the parties already registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) permits direct, indirect and consensus primaries.

“Buhari said his decision is based on informed advice by relevant ministries, departments and agencies of the government, and careful review of the bill in light of the current realities prevalent in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the circumstances.”


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