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Buhari’s Letter Declining Assent To Electoral Act Amendment Bill Read At NASS

Linda Akhigbe and Emmanuel Egobiambu  
Updated December 21, 2021
A file photo of the National Assembly complex in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

 

The National Assembly on Tuesday read President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter in which he declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. 

The letter was read at both the Senate and House of Representatives plenary session, a day after reports emerged that Buhari had declined assent to the bill.

Before the letter was read, the Senate had gone into a closed-door session to discuss the content of the document.

After the session, Senator Lawan read the letter in which President Buhari explained the reasons for his action.

In the letter, Buhari cited the direct primaries clause as the reason for his decision.

He argued that the clause throws up several challenges one of which is the cost of conducting direct primaries. According to him, direct primaries will increase the Federal Government’s financial burdens because they are expensive to conduct.

Aside from the cost implication, the Nigerian leader explained that direct primaries will stifle smaller parties and also raise security concerns since there would be a large turnout of voters in such a mode of election.

Buhari added that political parties should decide the best way to pick their candidates for elections, noting that his stance was based on a careful review and consultations.

According to him, the move will also lead to more litigations by party members.


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No Constitutional Breach

The President’s move ends the debate over the reason for the delay in signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Critics and high-profile Nigerians had before now speculated over the possible reasons for Buhari’s delay in assenting to the bill.

While some believe it was the direct primaries clause, other like Governor Nyesom Wike claimed it was due to the electronic transmission of results.

Despite the debates generated before Tuesday’s reading of the letter at the National Assembly, presidential aide Garba Shehu had maintained that his principal does not need to explain his stance to the public following the expiration of the 30-day period during which Buhari was expected to sign the bill.

“And as I said, it would be disrespectful of the National Assembly, for me at this time, to say this is the content of the president’s communication, assuming that the communication has been sent to them,” he said on Sunday.

“So as I said, allow them to resume, I believe that the president will not act in breach of the Constitution. No, he will do what is right.

“The constitution says the president must sign within 30 days, the constitution did not say that there should be the disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public when the disclosure to the National Assembly has been made.”