The Senate was in a closed-door session on Tuesday, a day after reports emerged that President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
It was revealed that the lawmakers are discussing President Buhari’s letter to them in which he explained his refusal to sign the bill.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan also read the President’s letter during the plenary session on Tuesday.
After the closed-door session, Lawan quoted Buhari as saying that he declined assent over the direct primaries clause.
He said the President reached the decision having received strong advice and carefully reviewed the bill and in light of present realities.
Direct primaries, Buhari’s letter read, will have serious adverse legal and financial consequences which cannot be accommodated just as the clause will have implications on the right of citizens to take part in governance.
Buhari further argued that the conduct of direct primaries will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting elections. This, he maintained, will mean a huge financial burden on political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He added that amending the bill to only accommodate direct primaries will stifle smaller parties, and thus not healthy for multi-party democracy.
According to him, this will throw up security challenges and it will overstretch security agents because of the large turnout of party members who will vote in direct primaries.
President Buhari adds that the proposed amendment will give rise to a plethora of litigation, stating that he is constrained to withhold assent to the bill on the premise of all the points noted above.
Political parties, he said, should be able to pick how they decide to choose candidates for elections.
The upper chamber’s move followed earlier indications that Buhari had declined assent to the bill citing the direct primaries clause in the Electoral Amendment Act.
In a leaked letter to the National Assembly, Buhari had faulted the mode of election, maintaining that it is too expensive.
The Nigerian leader, who argued that smaller political parties will be marginalised if the clause is allowed, also fears that with the prevailing security situation in the country, conducting direct primaries will be difficult.
But several critics, including Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, believe the President’s move is not connected to the direct mode of primaries.
Wike, a former minister, had earlier claimed that the President’s decision was due to his fears over the electronic transmission of result clause, but noted that Buhari has no reason to decline assent to the bill.
“The ruling party in their conspiracy is trying to deceive Nigerians that the mere inclusion of the direct primaries in the electoral act amendment bill is the problem why the President does not want to sign or why he has refused to sign,” Wike said
“The major issue is the transmission, the electronic transmission of results.”