Monday, March 4

National Assembly rescinds decision on direct primaries as Senate, Reps differ on consensus option

The House of Representatives has rescinded its decision on the adoption of direct primaries as the only mode of selection of candidates to represent candidates during elections in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

The lawmakers during the plenary session on Wednesday reversed the move and adopted the direct and indirect primaries as the mode of selection of candidates during primaries. They, however, expunged the consensus option

The lawmakers reversed the move during a plenary session on Wednesday and instead, adopted the direct and indirect primaries. It also expunged the consensus option.

The lower legislative chamber had witnessed some rowdiness after the lawmakers had earlier gone into a closed-door session. The reason for the rowdiness remained unclear as they were seen in different groups discussing.

Also, the Senate earlier in the day, in a related development, rescinded its decision on the adoption of direct primaries in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, as the only method of electing candidates by political parties.

The decision by members of the 2 chambers of the National Assembly is coming a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari during an interview with Channels Television said he was ready to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill after the National Assembly makes the necessary adjustments.

At the resumption of its session on Wednesday, the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar (Kebbi North), raised a motion for a re-committal to the Committee of the Whole, noting that the president had withheld his assent to the Electoral Bill passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to him.

Senator Abdullahi noted that the rationale for withholding assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84 and urged his colleagues to rescind the Chamber’s decision.

Senator Abdullahi explained that the motion for re-committal of the bill to the Committee, on the Whole, was against the backdrop of the “need to address the observation by Mr President C-in-C and make necessary amendment in accordance with Order 87(c) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended); and relying on order 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended).”

What is contained in Senate’s amendment

The Senate amended clause 84 to now allow for direct, indirect, and consensus options for nominating candidates by the political parties for the various elective positions in the country.

The Special Assistant to the Senate President, Dr Ezrel Tabiowo, in his statement, said the senate also recommended in Clause 84(3) 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 part.

The statement partly reads, “Clause 84(4) further provides 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 centres in each State Capital on specified dates.”

The clause provides that a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes.

What you should know

Recall that President Buhari in December 2021, withheld his assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill due to concerns raised over the direct primaries clause.
Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.

According to the President, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic, and security consequences on the country, particularly because of Nigeria’s peculiarities.
He added that it would also impact negatively the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally ensured.