The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has urged the National Assembly to remove the contentious direct primaries from the Electoral Act Amended Bill 2021 and resend to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent. It will be recalled that President Buhari recently returned the controversial bill to the National Assembly. In a letter sent to the lawmakers, the president asked that the National Assembly expunge the clause that has to do with director primaries from the amended bill.
The Senate had in November passed the much anticipated harmonised version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021 after both the Upper Chamber and the House of Representatives deliberated extensively on the report of the Conference Committee on the bill as a way of returning democracy to the people. With the passage, the National Assembly gave its nod to the electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Although the Upper Chamber was initially rooting for indirect primary, it made a u-turn and supported the direct mode.
In line with customary legislative procedures, the two chambers had in September, set up Conference Committees to reconcile disparity in the versions of the bill as passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. TheSenatePresident, Ahmad Lawan, on October 13, constitutedaseven- manconferencecommitteetomeetwiththeircounterparts in the House to harmonize the differences in the Senate and House versions of the bill. The Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North), who chaired the Conference Committee in the Senate, presented the report on the harmonized version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
In his presentation, he said the bill, when passed by the National Assembly and subsequently assented to by the President, would regulate the conduct of federal, state and area councils in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, elections. Abdullahi, who disclosed that the Conference Committee at its retreat, considered and adopted twenty-one clauses in the bill, said: “It is imperative to point out that with the successful harmonization of this bill, a process that started from the 7th Assembly through to the 8th National Assembly has now been completed by the 9th National Assembly.
Professor Sagay said in his reaction to Buhari’s refusal to sign the bill into law: “Well regarding whatyoucall“thestalemate” created by Buhari’s refusal to assent to the electoral bill, I don’t think there is any problem there at all. All that is required to be done is to remove the requirements of compulsory direct primaries. “What needs to be done is to remove the clause attached to it, reenact it with the rest and the President will sign it -that particular provision that is offensive. “However, I don’t support the direct primaries as compulsory option. I don’t support the bill as it was presented. Direct primaries should continue to be an option for the parties to decide by themselves and not a compulsory provision.”