Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that the parliament would decide the fate of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 upon resumption from its Christmas and New Year holiday in 2022.
The speaker also assured Nigerians that the parliament would not throw away the bill just because President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent because of the direct primary clause.
“When we return in the new year, we will resume our efforts to reform the electoral system in our country. And we will do it together. That is what the Nigerian people expect of us, and we will do our duty for God and our country. Whichever way it pans out, we must not throw out the baby with the bath water and must deliver a credible and enduring electoral system to Nigerians. Every law is a living document and as long as it has breath, it must survive,” the speaker said.
Gbajabiamila while delivering his end of the year speech shortly after reading the president’s communication to the House, said the parliament has a duty to ensure a smooth process, noting that the lawmakers would collectively decide the fate of the Bill.
President Buhari had in his communication said he was constrained to withhold assent to the Bill, citing security concerns and fear of manipulation and monetisation of the electoral process.
President Buhari in the letter noted that direct primary was not free from manipulation and that it would engender corruption and give rise to massive vote-buying.
He also noted that opposition political parties may mobilise against popular candidates in other political parties to ensure victory in the general election, such parties cannot boast of credible membership register.
“The indirect consequences of the issue of high cost and monetisation are that it will raise financial crimes and constitute further strain on the economy. It will also stifle smaller parties without the enormous required resources to mobilise all party members for the primaries. This is not healthy for the sustenance of multi-party democracy in Nigeria.
“The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy which is characterised by freedom of choices. Political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right to freedom of association. Several millions of Nigerians are not card-carrying members of any political party. Thus, the emphasis should be on enabling qualified Nigerians to vote for the candidate of their choice during general elections as a means of participation in governance and furtherance of the concept of universal adult suffrage or universal franchise,” the president said in the letter.