President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly on why he withheld assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
It was gathered that the president asked the National Assembly to expunge the direct primary clause and re-present the Bill.
It was further gathered that the president, in the letter, said that prevailing situation in the country would not allow him to sign the bill.
In the letter, it was also learnt that the president cited high cost of conducting direct primaries, the security challenge of monitoring the election, violation of citizens’ rights and marginalisation of small political parties, among reasons why he rejected the Bill.
Buhari noted 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 monetization and that it will drive and increase the financial crimes and constitutes further strain on the economy.
In his view, it will also stifle smaller parties without the enormous resources required to mobilize all party members for the primaries, a situation which, he said, is not healthy for the sustenance of multiparty democracy in Nigeria.
The president further stated 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.
“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,” he said.
President Buhari also said the proposed amendment might also 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 country.