Electoral Act: Buhari Declines Assent Over ‘N500B’ Direct Primary Costs
December 1, 2021
Barely two weeks after the National Assembly passed new electoral Bill for Presidential Assent, Prime Business Africa reports that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will not sign the document as an ‘Act of Parliament’ to anchor future elections.
It was gathered that the President has communicated his decision to relevant sources after due consultations with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.
Following a veto, the National assembly will be faced with options of correcting and accommodating the President’s concerns by reworking the document for his assent or overriding his veto by summoning a joint session of the Assembly to revalidate its own document against President Buhari’s wish.
Prime Business Africa learnt that the President declined assent to the critical law following an initial strong advice from All Progressives Congress (APC) governors clearly opposed to the recommended Direct Primary election as a prerequisite for nominating candidates for elective positions at all levels. They argued that Direct Primaries would further divide the ruling party and could come at huge costs running into hundreds of billions of naira.
The governors, who met the President in a closed-door session, argued that they were also speaking the minds of their counterparts in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Although Nigerians want a new electoral law, there are indications that politicians within the APC and the PDP have convergent opinions on why the President should not sign the Bill without expunging some provisions, especially the compulsory direct primary election within the internal democratic processes of the parties. PDP governors had also threatened to go to court should the political party be forced to take the path of direct primaries without any other option.
This means that the Bill would need to be reworked by the National Assembly and the compulsory Direct Primary provision be expunged before the President would sign it into law. With the right political will and environment, both the President and the lawmakers could have got the document going in a matter of days, but there are concerns that this might open another groundswell of protracted controversy leading up to Nigeria’s crucial general elections in February 2023, less than 18 months.
This will be the second time Mr Buhari will be withholding assent to this crucial document in his two-term rule. The first was in the life of the Eighth National Assembly, shortly before the conduct of the 2019 general elections in which the President recorded a legally and keenly contested victory.
His reason for declining assent at the time was that electronic voting (also allowed in the new document], a major component of the proposed ‘law,’ was open to manipulation and could hamper the conduct of a credible election as the country’s democratic system was ill-prepared for it.
This time around, the President has been under pressure to sign a new electoral law passed by the Ninth National Assembly after the lawmakers were pressured to reconsider the document and factor in some, if not all, of President Buhari’s concerns.
Although Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations have been mounting pressure on the executive arm of government to sign the crucial Act, with AGF Malami and other functionaries of government have given hints of ongoing consultations on the matter, but Prime Business Africa reports that the process has been concluded and President Buhari took decision not to sign the Electoral Bill into law.
Sources close to the leadership of the APC and that of the PDP told Prime Business Africa that, although the majority of political parties in Nigeria wanted a new electoral law, they were opposed to the President signing the Electoral Bill in its present form. The multimedia news organisation reliably gathered that APC governors had met with President Buhari behind closed doors in Abuja and made strong recommendations asking Mr President not to sign the new Electoral Act. According to the governors, all major political parties, especially the PDP, are averse to his signing it.
The governors, according to information reaching Prime Business Africa, cited the provision for direct primaries as the major issue. They argued that compelling the political parties to conduct direct primaries would create further rancour within the APC, a concern they told the President their PDP counterparts also shared. The APC governors also told President Buhari that the cost of conducting direct primaries across all political parties at local government, state and federal levels, would be too cumbersome for the Nigerian economy to shoulder in its present state, an idea which was said to have caught Mr President’s attention, making him refer the matter to INEC for advice.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Prime Business Africa gathered, subsequently confirmed to the President that compelling all political parties to conduct direct primaries would cost more than N480 billion.
INEC had quietly told the President that toeing the path of direct primaries for the two major political parties (APC and PDP) alone would amount to holding two national elections in Nigeria with the attendants costs for logistics, security and provision for infrastructure, especially as the electoral umpire would have to be present and supervise to ratify all processes.
President Buhari then referred the matter to AGF Abubakar Malami who, after legal consultations, returned with a confirmation that he might not have to sign the Electoral Act in its current state.
Impeccable sources close to the process told Prime Business Africa that the President withheld assent to the new ‘Electoral Act’ based on Malami’s advice and that of the INEC, which looked at the huge costs involved.
Leave A Comment