The House of Representatives will on Wednesday reintroduce the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill and quickly work to pass it and send same to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila has said.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in December last year declined assent to the amendment made to the Electoral Act by the National Assembly after raising some concerns.
But Gbajabiamila, in an address to welcome his colleagues back from the Christmas and New Year break on Tuesday, said the House would not lose sight of the benefits of the amendment, hence it would introduce it and lawmakers would ensure its passage on time so that the president would assent to it.
The speaker reiterated the fact that the inclusion of direct primaries as the only mode of producing candidates by political parties was to open up the political space and allow more Nigerians to participate in the democratic process.
He said: “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.
“Now let it be clear to all that our only objective in introducing that provision 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 election is susceptible to bad outcomes and ought to be fixed.”
The speaker said the argument in some quarters that political parties do not have proper registers of their members, which was a reason to reject the direct primaries option was “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.”
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