Real reason I didn’t sign electoral amendment bill into law – Buhari

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Doris Israel Ijeoma

Doris Israel Ijeoma is a graduate of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos. She can be reached via dorisisrael5@gmail.com