SUPREME COURT
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President Muhammadu Buhari has  notified the National Assembly  of his intention to withhold assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 in accordance with Sections 58(1) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the president outlined his reasons for refusing to sign the bill into law noting that direct primaries is undemocratic

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Buhari, whose letter to lawmakers  on the last day of the 30 days stipulated in the constitution for him to communicate his position on the bill, emphasized that political parties should be allowed to freely exercise their right of choice in deciding whether to conduct direct or indirect primaries in the conduct of their primary elections, as their respective realities may permit

He contended that direct primaries, as proposed in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, would significantly increase the cost of conducting primary elections by political parties and could have a negative impact on election outcomes.

“Further to the letter dated 18th November 2021 forwarded for Presidential assent, the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, as passed by the National Assembly, I have received informed advice from relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of the government, and have also carefully reviewed the bill in light of the current realities prevalent in the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Buhari stated in the letter titled: “Withholding of Assent to Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021

He stated that the review revealed that holding elections for the nomination of party candidates solely through direct primaries, as proposed by the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, “has serious adverse legal, financial, economic, and security consequences, which cannot be accommodated at the moment given our nation’s peculiarities.”

This, according to Buhari, “also has implications on citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to participate in government.”

“The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 seeks to amend certain provisions of the existing Electoral Act 2010,” he explained.

Part of the Bill’s goal is to amend current Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 to remove the provision for the conduct of indirect primaries in the nomination of party candidates, so that party candidates can only emerge through direct primaries in the future.

“The conduct of direct primaries across the country’s 8,809 wards will result in a significant increase in the cost of conducting primary elections by parties, as well as an increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by INEC, which must deploy monitors across these wards each time a party conducts direct primaries for the presidential, gubernatorial, and legislative positions.”

“Adding these costs to the already enormous cost of conducting general elections will inevitably result in a huge financial burden on both political parties, INEC, and the economy in general at a time of dwindling revenues.”

Furthermore, the president believed that the indirect consequences of the high cost and monetization issues would increase financial crime and put additional strain on the economy.

It will also suffocate smaller parties because they lack the enormous resources needed to mobilize all party members for the primaries, he claims.

According to him, this would be detrimental to the survival of Nigeria’s multi-party democracy.

“In addition to the increased costs identified above, conducting and monitoring primary elections across 8,809 wards will pose significant security challenges because security agencies will be overstretched. Direct primaries will be open to participation from all and sundry, and such large turn-out without effective security coordination will also engender intimidation and disruptions, raising credibility concerns for the outcomes of such elections.”

“The proposed amendment violates the underlying spirit of democracy, which is characterized by freedom of choice.”

Membership in a political party is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right to free association.

Several millions of Nigerians do not belong to any political party.

“As a result, the emphasis should be on allowing qualified Nigerians to vote for the candidate of their choice during general elections as a means of participation in governance and advancement of the concept of universal adult suffrage or universal franchise.”

Furthermore, he stated that the proposed amendment could result in “a slew of litigations based on diverse grounds and legal issues, including but not limited to the fact that the proposed amendment cannot 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.”

“This real possibility, without a doubt, will truncate the nation’s electoral program, as another electoral exercise towards a change of government in 2023 is imminent.”

Nigeria is currently grappling with the issues of political process monetisation and vote-buying in both party and general elections.

Also read: All Progressives Congress Governors in Nigeria Agree Feb. 2022 For National Convention

“The direct implication of institutionalizing only direct primaries is the aggravation of over[1]monetisation of the process because there will be many more people a contestant needs to reach out to,” he argued. “This will further fuel corruption and abuse of office by incumbent contestants, who may resort to public resources to satisfy the increased demands and logistics of winning party primaries.”

Buhari also insisted that direct primaries would be subjected to or susceptible to manipulation or malpractices because most parties lack a reliable and verified membership register valid means of identification, which means wealthy contestants could recruit non-members to vote in order to influence the outcome.

“Rival parties can also conspire and mobilize people to vote against a good or popular candidate in a party’s primaries in order to advance their own candidates.”

In contrast, during indirect primaries, voting is done by accredited delegates, so the aforementioned irregularities are not possible.

“The major conclusions reached as a result of the review are as follows: Aside from the serious negative legal, financial, economic, and security consequences, the limitation or restriction of the nomination procedures available to political parties and their members constitutes an affront to the right to freedom of association.”

“Restricting the procedure or means of nomination of candidates by political parties is thus undemocratic, as it also amounts to undue interference in the affairs of political parties.”

“Indirect primaries or collegiate elections are part of widely accepted electoral practices around the world.”

Furthermore, direct primaries are prone to manipulation and do not guarantee the emergence of the people’s will, particularly in circumstances such as ours, where it is nearly impossible to sustain a workable implementation framework or structure thereof.

“In light of the foregoing, I hereby notify the National Assembly that, in accordance with Sections 58(1) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution, I am compelled to withhold my assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.” (as amended).

“It is my considered position that political parties should be allowed to freely exercise their right of choice in deciding whether to conduct direct or indirect primaries in the conduct of their primary elections as their respective realities permit.”

“Please accept my heartfelt consideration and esteem,” Buhari said.

N’Assembly Cannot Veto Buhari’s Refusal to Sign Electoral Bill, According to Wike

Mr. Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, has stated that the National Assembly lacked the audacity to veto President Muhammadu Buhari’s withholding of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

He claimed it was part of the All Progressives Congress (APC) scheme to deny Nigerians a free, fair, and transparent election in 2023.

Governor Wike spoke yesterday at the official opening of the Chokocho-Igbodo Road in the state’s Etche Local Government Area.According to him, the only way forNigerians to avoid repeating the 2015 and 2019 mistakes of electing the APC-led federal government was to vote them out in 2023.

“Three weeks ago, I told Nigerians that there is a conspiracy not to have a free, fair, and transparent election in 2023, and that conspiracy was very clear,” the Rivers State governor recalled.

And I have informed Nigerians that Mr. President will not sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.”Wike stated that knowing the APC’s modus operandi, style, and strategy, it was obvious to him and all discerning minds that the direct primaries clause was inserted into the Electoral Act amendment bill as a ploy for the president to refuse assent to the bill.

He claimed that APC members were concerned that if results were transmitted electronically they would not be able to compete in the 2023 general election.

“What APC resolved in their meeting was that their problem is not necessarily direct primaries, but the electronic transmission of results in 2023,” he says.

If they allow that, the APC will obviously lose the election in 2023, and they told themselves that the only way to survive that is to include direct primaries in the bill, so that Mr. President can use that as an excuse not to sign the bill.”

He accused the APC governors and National Assembly members of deceiving Nigerians by claiming to be in a battle for supremacy over direct primaries when, in fact, they had secretly agreed to scuttle the possibility of transmitting election results electronically in 2023.

The Rivers governor stated that the National Assembly lacked the necessary votes to veto the president’s refusal to sign the bill because they were not interested in protecting Nigerians’ interests and ensuring free and fair elections with electronic transmission of election results.

“Unfortunately, you lack a National Assembly that has what it takes, that will stand up for the people, that will say, look, we were elected by the people, and we want to give the peoplele the best.”

The governor maintained that because the APC did not prioritize Nigerians’ interests, its leaders were embroiled in a crisis, jostling for benefits that would feed their personal egos.

He claimed that the Peoples Democratic Party  was unique in that it was growing stronger as a true political party and working every day to improve the socioeconomic conditions of people in PDP-controlled states.

 

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