…Commends Swift Action by National Assembly A coalition of 13 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), has called for speedy passage of the harmonized version of the amendment of the contentious Section 84 of the Electoral Bill 2021, but rejects the insertion of consensus mode into the new bill by the Senate, as both houses of National
…Commends Swift Action by National Assembly
A coalition of 13 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), has called for speedy passage of the harmonized version of the amendment of the contentious Section 84 of the Electoral Bill 2021, but rejects the insertion of consensus mode into the new bill by the Senate, as both houses of National Assembly on Wednesday started the process that will lead to the possible re-transmission of the bill to the President for assent on or before January 21, 2022.
In a statement on Wednesday on the “Senate and House Vote on Clause 84 on Nomination of Candidates in the Electoral Bill 2021,” the CSOs rejected Senate’s introduction of consensus as a mode for nomination of candidates in the Electoral Bill 2021.
Arguing that “the Consensus mode is antithetical to democratic principles and will result in the subversion of popular will,” they maintained that, “it violates the rights of aspirants to equal participation in party primaries and limits the choice of voters to candidates who did not emerge from democratic primary elections.”
The CSOs also posited that, “Judging from experience, consensus has occasioned a litany of litigations in Nigeria’s electoral process.”
They however commended the swift action taken by the National Assembly upon resumption to review its position on direct primaries as the sole mode for nomination of candidates in
the Electoral Bill 2021.
The statement reads in part: “At today’s plenary, the Senate and House of Representatives recommitted the Electoral Bill 2021 with proposed amendment to Clause 84 dealing with nomination of candidates. While the Senate voted for direct, indirect and consensus mode as procedure for the nomination of candidates, the House of Representatives voted for the conduct of direct and indirect primaries as the acceptable mode of nomination of candidates.
“We reject the decision of the Senate to introduce a completely new mode of “consensus” as a procedure for candidates’ nomination. The Consensus mode is antithetical to democratic principles and will result in the subversion of popular will.
“Furthermore, it violates the rights of aspirants to equal participation in party primaries and limits the choice of voters to candidates who did not emerge from democratic primary elections.
“Judging from experience, consensus has occasioned a litany of litigations in Nigeria’s electoral process.
“We call on the Senate to, in line with the popular will of Nigerians, adopt the position of the House of Representatives which now recognizes direct and indirect primaries as procedure for nomination of candidates.
“With this development, a harmonization committee will now have to be constituted by the leadership of the National Assembly to harmonize the divergent positions of both chambers thereby delaying the speedy conclusion of the process.
“We therefore call for the immediate withdrawal of this new introduction which is alien to the original Electoral Bill 2021 to speed up the work of the harmonization committee and conclusion of the amendment process on or before the 21 January 2022 deadline.
“As indicated in our earlier statement, any further delay will undermine public confidence in the reform process and therefore unacceptable,” the coalition said.
Signed are the following organizations: Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation (TAF), CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF). Others are Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO) and Inclusive Friends Association (IFA).
At the resumption of its session on Wednesday, the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar, asked his colleagues to rescind the Chamber’s decision on clause 84 of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, passed by the National Assembly on November 18, 2021.
Accordingly, the chamber in Clause 84(2) of the report approved direct, indirect primaries or consensus as procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions.
It 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 party.”
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-commital to the Committee of the Whole.
The motion was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).
The Senate Leader, in his presentation, recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had signified withholding his assent on the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2021 which was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the President on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
Senator Abdullahi noted that the rationale for withholding assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84.
President Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the President, signing the bill into law would have serious 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 the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally ensured.
The President also argued that the current security condition of the country is not in tandem with holding direct primaries.
Senator Abdullahi, however, explained that the motion for re-commital of the bill to the Committee, on the Whole, 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).”
Accordingly, the chamber rescinded its decision on the affected Clause of the Bill as passed and recommit same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.
In a related development, the House of Representatives has also rescinded its decision on the compulsory direct primaries clause in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The members reversed the move during a plenary session on Wednesday and instead, adopted the direct and indirect primaries. It also expunged the consensus option.
During the plenary, the lawmakers had gone into a closed-door session after which the chamber became rowdy. But the reason for the rowdiness was unclear as they were seen in different groups conferring.
The lawmaker’s move is coming weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, citing the compulsory direct primaries clause.
In a letter to the National Assembly, the President had faulted the move, saying it is expensive and also against the spirit of democracy.
“The amendment to the sequence of the elections in section 25 of the Principal Act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission to organize, undertake and supervise all elections provided in section 15 (a) of the third schedule of the constitution,” Buhari said in a letter to the lawmakers.
“The amendment to Section (138) of the Principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process and the amendments to section 152 (3)-(5) of the Principal Act, may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over Local Government elections.”
Buhari’s move had triggered reactions from several quarters including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of plotting to rig the 2023 elections.
But in an exclusive interview with Channels Television, earlier this year, President Buhari said that he was willing to sign if only the legislators will effect changes which must include the addition of consensus candidates and indirect primary options to the mode of selecting a candidate for an election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission has maintained that the non passage of the Electoral Bill 2021 was hampering its preparations not just for the off season governorship election in Ekiti and Osun states but the 2023 General Election.