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Senate re-amends Electoral Bill, makes primaries flexible

The Senate yesterday re-amended the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 passed by the National Assembly on November 18, 2021. Following the apex chamber’s decision to rework the document, the legislators in Clause 84(2) of the report approved direct, indirect primaries or consensus as procedure for nomination of candidates by parties for the various elective positions.

The Assembly also approved the recommended 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”. 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 centers 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. The amendment followed a motion for its re-committal to the Committee of the Whole sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North). Abdullahi recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent to the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2021 passed by the National Assembly on 18th November 2021. He said the rationale for the President withholding his assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84. Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, explained that his decision to withhold his assent to the bill was informed by advice from relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government after a thorough review. According to him, signing the bill into law will have adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities.

He added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally guaranteed. Abdullahi explained that the motion for recommital of the bill to the committee 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)”. Consequently, the chamber rescinded its earlier decision to impose direct primary on political parties, a provision that has attracted divergent reactions and criticisms from various sections of the public.




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