NASS Gives Room for Direct and Indirect Primaries

The National Assembly has re-amended the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, giving room for both direct and indirect primaries.

This was reached yesterday at the floor of both chambers in their separate plenary session.

Lawmakers in the Senate also added the consensus clause for the nomination of candidates by political parties for elective positions.

In a statement by the upper chamber, it noted that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party”.

On Clause 84(4), it read that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below; (a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centers in each State Capital on specified dates.”

However, the legislators in the House of Representatives had removed the consensus option.

The move by the lawmakers on Wednesday is the latest in the series of events since President Muhammadu Buhari refused to approve the bill.

 President Buhari had in December, written to the National Assembly on his decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Buhari had noted in the letter that the direct primaries clause had informed his decision. He said the inclusion of the clause is not only anti-democratic but also expensive to execute.

“In addition to increased costs identified above, conducting and monitoring primary elections across 8,809 wards will pose huge security challenges as the security agencies will also 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, thereby raising credibility issues for the outcomes of such elections,” the president added.

“The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy which is characterized by freedom of choices.”

He stressed that being a member of any political party is by choice, and millions of Nigerians are not card-carrying members of any party, therefore, attention should be on enabling citizens to vote for the candidates of their choice during elections.

Meanwhile, the President’s comment had been faulted. The main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had In a statement, accused the ruling  All Progressives Congress (APC) of planning to rig the 2023 elections, and described Buhari’s action as a “script to put Nigerians under perpetual bondage”.

“Having been rejected for its failures and having also self-decimated its structure across the country, the APC has completely lost the capacity and goodwill for an electoral contest and as such, seeks every means to subvert any process that can guarantee credible elections in 2023,” the party explained.

On his part, the Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Sule faulted Buhari’s actions. He noted that state Governors are not against direct primaries.

He had stated this during his appearance on Channels Television Sunday Politics. According to him, “It is not that the state governors are against direct. All we said was that why don’t you leave the options,” he said.

“The Electoral Act is far more than just direct or indirect. There are so many important things there, why are we boxing ourselves with either direct or indirect?” he said.

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