Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, formally rejected the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill on Tuesday, which among other issues, proposed direct primaries on all political parties in the country.
According to Buhari, imposing a direct primary will negate polity and the spirit of democracy. This bill has become one of Nigeria’s most hotly debated ahead of the 2023 election.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, delivered the refusal in letters that were read in both chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The President highlighted a number of concerns about the conduct of primaries, emphasising that political parties should be able to exercise their freedom to choose whether to conduct their primary elections directly or indirectly.
In the letter, the President said, “Further to the letter dated Nov. 18, forwarded for presidential assent, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 as passed by the National Assembly”.
He also stated that he has carefully reviewed the bill in line with current events prevalent in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This includes holding elections for nominating the party candidates, as proposed by the electoral act amendment bill 2021, which has major legal, financial, economic, and security implications at this time due to the challenges across the country.
“Arising from the review, Mr Senate President, may wish to note that the conduct of elections for the nomination of party candidates as solely via direct primaries as envisage by the electoral act amendment bill 2021 has serious adverse, legal, financial and economic and security consequences, which can not be accommodated at the moment considering our nation’s peculiarity.
”It also has implications on the lives of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured”, the president said.
He expressed reservations about some of the bill’s aims, which would change current section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 to remove the provision for the conduct of indirect primaries in the nomination of party candidates, allowing party candidates to emerge solely through direct primaries.
The holding of direct primaries across the 8.809 wards in the country will lead to substantial friction in conducting primary elections by parties and an increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by INEC.
He warned that if political parties conduct direct primary elections for presidential, governorship, and legislative positions, the cost of conducting the general election would skyrocket, putting a huge financial strain on both political parties, INEC, and the economy as a whole at a time when revenues are dwindling.
The Presidency also warned of insecurity challenges in conducting and monitoring direct primaries in the 8,809 wards, claiming that security agencies will be overburdened since direct primaries will open participation to all, resulting in intimidation and disruption.