As the 30-day deadline within which President Muhammadu Buhari, was expected to sign the amended electoral bill forwarded to him by the National Assembly on November 19, ended last night, stakeholders in the political space have braced themselves for the aftermath of the President’s action or inaction on the bill.
Prior to receipt of the bill one month ago, there have been appeals from different quarters to the President, including the diplomatic community, that he should pen his signature on the bill to give the 2023 elections a fresh constitutional process.
While the President did not give any hint at any possibility of assent since he received the electoral bill up to when this newspaper went to bed last night, his Minister of Justice and Attorney- General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), wrote a letter to him highlighting the problems with the inclusion of mandatory direct primaries in the Electoral Act amendment bill.
According to the provisions of the constitution, if after 30 days, the President refuses to sign the bill and the National Assembly is not in support of the President’s amendments, the Senate and the House of Representatives can recall the bill and pass it.
If the bill is passed in the form it was sent to the President by two-thirds majority votes in both chambers, the bill automatically becomes law even without the signature of the President.
Few weeks ago, the President wrote a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission, seeking the opinion of INEC over the matter.
Recently, reports in sections of the media said the president had conceded to pressure from some governors of his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and withheld his assent to the bill, because of the excuse that direct primaries would be too expensive to run.
However, the presidency and the National Assembly debunked the report as false, stating that the President had not taken any decision on the bill.
Recall that President Buhari did not sign a similar bill into law before the last general elections “because he felt that the exercise was too close and doing so might jeopardise the contest.”
The National Assembly equally failed to override the president’s decision by passing the document into law by a two-thirds majority.
Speaking to New Telegraph, permanent repre sentative of the Centre For Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI) to the United Nations, Mr. Olufemi Aduwo, said political parties should immediately purge themselves of inefficiency whether the president signed or not.
He said: “Please note that a direct party primary is as huge in organisation as a general election. Think back at how that is done in the US. It is even manageable in the US because it is just two political parties involved and direct primaries are not applicable in every state.
“Too often when the legislature in Nigeria heaps responsibilities on INEC and the citizens excitedly support that, they seem to lose sight of the fact that we have many political parties in Nigeria who should be equally monitored, not just the so-called ‘major’ political parties.”
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the INEC will still keep to its plans of ensuring that the 2023 general elections are conducted in a free and fair mode, regardless of whether the president signs the bill or withholds his assent.
A source within the electoral commission said the INEC leadership already made his position known to the presidency when it was consulted and the body is disposed to any decision taken by the President on the bill.