President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday officially wrote the National Assembly, rejecting the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The rejection was conveyed in letters read in the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The bill was transmitted to the president on November 19.
In a lengthy letter read by Mr Gbajabiamila, Mr Buhari explained his reasons for the declining assent to the bill.
He said he got relevant advice from all concerned ministries, departments and agencies.
Mr Buhari cited financial, security and legal consequences for rejecting the bill.
He added that it would infringe on the rights of Nigerians to participate in governance and democracy.
“The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy, which is characterised by freedom of choices of which political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right of freedom of association,” the statement reads in part.
He added that the existing constitution of the parties already registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) permits direct, indirect and consensus primaries.
Mr Buhari said his decision is based on informed advice by relevant ministries, departments and agencies of the government, and careful review of the bill in light of the current realities prevalent in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the circumstances.
Parliament Will Decide The Way Forward – Gbajabiamila
In his end of the year speech, Mr Gbajabiamila said the parliament will decide the way forward on the bill next year.
He noted that there would be no need to throw away the baby with the bathwater.
“As it is, it falls on the parliament to decide the way forward. When we resume next year, we will decide it together. We must not throw a baby away with the bathwater,” Gbajabiamila said.
No Constitutional Breach
The President’s move ends the debate over the reason for the delay in signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Critics and high-profile Nigerians had before now speculated over the possible reasons for Buhari’s delay in assenting to the bill.
While some believe it was the direct primaries clause, other like Governor Nyesom Wike claimed it was due to the electronic transmission of results.
Despite the debates generated before Tuesday’s reading of the letter at the National Assembly, presidential aide Garba Shehu had maintained that his principal does not need to explain his stance to the public following the expiration of the 30-day period during which Buhari was expected to sign the bill.
“And as I said, it would be disrespectful of the National Assembly, for me at this time, to say this is the content of the president’s communication, assuming that the communication has been sent to them,” he said on Sunday.
“So as I said, allow them to resume, I believe that the president will not act in breach of the Constitution. No, he will do what is right.
“The constitution says the president must sign within 30 days, the constitution did not say that there should be the disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public when the disclosure to the National Assembly has been made.”