OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives on Tuesday opted to sustain the veto of President Muhammadu Buhari on the electoral act (amendment) bill.

The legislators have decided to recommit the bill for reconsideration tomorrow, Wednesday 19 January 2022.

This decision was contained in the speech of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila during the first plenary session of the year 2022 after the House resumed from the end-of-year recess.

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There were expectations in some quarters that the legislators will override Buhari’s veto upon resumption to work today.

In rationalizing the decision to sustain Buhari’s veto, the speaker said “we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” referring to the issue of direct primary which, he insisted, is the right path to take for the country.

“Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment this tomorrow.  And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the Bill and send it back to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for assent,” he submitted.

He stressed that “a credible electoral law is what the people want.  It is what the people deserve, and we must give to them.  The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill includes many other provisions that will serve our democracy well, and we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater.”

Mr. Gbajabiamila commended his colleagues for passing “this most critical legislation” but noted that “unfortunately, that bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form.  Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.”

According to him, the insertion of compulsory direct primaries for political parties was “to strengthen the foundations of our democracy so that it works for all of our nation’s people.  The process by which political parties nominate candidates for election is essential, perhaps even just as important as the general election itself.  A primary nomination process that deprives the majority of party members of the opportunity to choose who represents them in the general elections is susceptible to bad outcomes and ought to be fixed.

“Some argued that political parties do not have proper registers of their members, which was a reason to reject the direct primary option.  This is an appalling admission that political parties in the country do not have credible and up to date registers of their members.  We are left to question how those parties have thus far managed their affairs, including conducting congresses and primary elections, whether by direct or indirect means.

“Besides, it can be inferred that the failure to maintain a proper register of members violates the spirit of the constitution, as it makes it impossible for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enforce the constitutional requirement for political parties to ensure that their membership reflects the federal character of Nigeria.

“Nonetheless, it is disappointing that the failure of political parties to adequately document their membership is being used to not give the Nigerian people the power to fully participate in our nation’s politics.  If nothing else, including a direct primary mandate in the law, would have forced political parties to properly register their members within the shortest possible time.  This would have been the singular most significant reform of our political party system in a generation.

“I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valuable for building accountability in our political system.  But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment this tomorrow.  And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the Bill and send it back to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.”

Meanwhile, the Speaker dismissed claims of errors in the bill, suggesting that a fake copy was in circulation. He said: “As to the issues relating to inelegant drafting and other technical errors in the Bill.  This is a matter of concern as it appears the version sent to the President differs from what is circulating in the public domain.“

The House was scanty upon resumption as members failed to turn up for plenary. The speaker promptly called his colleagues into a closed door session and the gallery was cleared.

He made his address containing the decision on the electoral bill after the in-camera session.

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