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Electoral bill: National Assembly will decide way forward next year –Gbajabiamila

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SPEAKER of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly would decide the next course of action regarding the electoral bill in 2022.

He said this on the backdrop of President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the electoral bill after the 30 days mandated by the law.

“As it is, it falls on the parliament to decide the way forward,” said Gbajabiamila during his end-of-the-year speech to members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“When we resume next year, we will decide it together. We must not throw a baby away with the bathwater.”

President Buhari had, in a letter on Tuesday, notified the leadership of the National Assembly of his rejection of the electoral bill.

In the letter read by Gbajabiamila on the floor of the Green Chamber, Buhari cited financial, security and legal consequences for rejecting the bill.

The president said he consulted with relevant ministries, departments and agencies before refusing to sign the bill.

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He claimed that the proposed electoral bill 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,” he said.

Buhari argued that the proposed bill would give rise to a plethora of litigations based on diverse grounds and issues of law, including but not limited to the fact that the proposed amendment would not work in retrospect given that the existing constitution of various parties already permitted direct, indirect and consensus primaries.

He said that mandating direct primaries for political parties would also lead to over monetisation and corruption in the electoral process.

Although the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has raised concerns about the mandatory direct primaries in the bill, this is not the first time Buhari would withhold his assent from the bill.

He rejected the bill four times for various reasons in 2018.

The two-thirds members of the Senate and the House of Representatives can override the presidential refusal to assent to the bill, if they so wish.

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But Nigerians believe that the National Assembly will not have the courage to do so.

Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has the majority of members, and the leadership of both chambers rarely reject anything from the president.

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