The Presidency said on Tuesday President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to withhold his assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill was in the best interest of the country.
The President had last Monday informed the National Assembly about his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill, citing several reasons including the adoption of direct primaries for political parties by the lawmakers.
Some Senators later moved to override the President’s decision but shelved the decision to give room for more consultation with members of the House of Representatives on the matter.
In a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, the presidency said though President Buhari’s decision to withhold assent to the bill has come under scrutiny from media and players in the political space, the move would impact Nigerians.
It said the recommendations in the electoral bill would have significant legal, financial, and security implications on the country.
The statement read: “Nigeria’s strength as a nation and its status as one of the wealthiest economies in Africa with one of its highest standards of living owes above all to its proud democratic processes, which are enshrined in the Electoral Act of 2010.
“It is this act which the new bill seeks to amend. These amendments have been presented as a means to enhance and build upon our democratic processes. After careful review, the President’s Office has found that the opposite is the case.
“Rather, the proposed amendments entail significant legal, financial, economic and security consequences for all Nigerians, principal among which would be a severe spike in the cost of holding primary elections by parties – integral to democracies the world over.
“And who would shoulder these costs? The Nigerian taxpayer of course. And who would benefit? Only the richest of political parties. At a time when the nation is seeking to extricate itself from the economic mire of the worst global health crisis in living memory, whatever other merits the new bill may have, now is not the time for such frivolous spending of public money.
“Inevitably, the usual voices are making themselves heard, with cynical claims of election rigging and so on. This is nothing new. We heard their self-serving cries of fraud in 2015 when we saw the first peaceful transfer of power in independent Nigeria’s history. Then again in 2019, when President Buhari was re-elected with a lead of over three million. We will hear them again in 2023.
“Until then, the President will do whatever he can to protect this county’s democracy, and that includes withholding assent from this Bill. It is worth noting that, as one of Nigeria’s largest political parties, the ruling APC is one of those that stand to benefit from a bill that favors wealthier parties. But it is not the job of this government to protect the APC. It is the job of this government to protect Nigeria, its people, and its democracy.
“To those that would rather that limited public funds be spent on politicking during this time of global crisis, we say: cease these cynical games. Tell the Nigerian people openly what you want. Put your – or rather they’re – money where your mouth is.”
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