There is confusion over the delegates’ lists of political parties, including the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, following the delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in signing the amendment version of the Electoral Act.
Chieftains of the major political parties, who spoke on Thursday, said the President’s assent to the amended Act would enable parties to know the exact number of delegates that would vote during presidential primaries as statutory delegates were excluded in the existing version of the law.
The PDP has scheduled its presidential primary to hold on May 28 and 29, while the APC will elect its presidential candidate at its shadow election taking place on May 28 and 29.
Almost two weeks to the primaries, the parties are not certain whether or not statutory delegates will vote with the President’s delay in signing the amended Electoral Act.
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The Senate and the House of Representatives had on Wednesday passed the amendment to the Act to recognise statutory delegates as voters during primaries, congresses and conventions of political parties.
The National Assembly after passing the amendment said it expected the executive to sign it last week without delay.
Before the amendment, the section did not provide for statutory delegates, including elected councillors, local government chairmen and their deputies, party chairmen in local government areas and six Abuja area councils, state and federal lawmakers, governors and their deputies, President and Vice- President, National Working Committee members, state party chairmen and secretaries, as voters at the primaries.
Section 84(8) initially read, ‘A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.
But the parliament amended the section by adding “…in addition to statutory delegates already prescribed in the constitution of the party in the amendment.”
During the plenary, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, described the amendment as emergency legislation and the omission of statutory delegates as a fundamental error.
He stated, “The National Assembly will finish with the processing of this amendment on this Bill between today in the Senate and tomorrow in the House of Representatives, and then the Executive will do the assent within the week.”
But on Thursday, there was concern about the President’s delay in signing the amended Electoral Act one week after it was transmitted to him.
The President failed to sign the amendment of the Act. Instead, he signed only the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2022 into law and immediately travelled to the United Arab Emirates. He, however, said nothing about the electoral bill which he has less than 10 days to sign going by the APC’s timetable
Speaking on the issue, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria and Chairman of the Kebbi State Screening of the APC Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, explained that the number of delegates remained dicey because the President had not signed the amendment.
He said, “Nobody has the exact number of delegates electing the presidential candidate because the issue of statutory delegates has not been settled.”
“In the event that Mr President refuses to endorse, then we will be left with three delegates per 774 Local Government and Area Council of Nigeria, which is 2,322. This delegate issue is only applicable if the leadership of our great party adopts the indirect mode of electing our presidential candidate. Otherwise, our constitution and the Electoral Act provide for direct, indirect and consensus.
“All I know is that the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee of our great party is law-abiding and believer in the doctrine of rule of law; accordingly will follow the provisions of our party’s constitution, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 2022 Electoral Act and other extant laws.”
President’s delay has caused confusion, threat to 2023 polls – Reps majority caucus
Also on Thursday, the House of Representatives Minority caucus asked the President to immediately sign the one-item amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 to avert an imminent political crisis in Nigeria.
The caucus said it had noted with grave concern, Buhari’s delay in signing the amendment to Section 84(8) of the Act, adding that, it had “thrown the nation into serious confusion and constitutes a huge threat to our democracy and the smooth conduct of the 2023 general elections.”
The opposition lawmakers urged the President to note that any further delay in signing the amendment to the Act “to give political parties a sense of direction” in the conduct of primaries for the election of candidates for the 2023 general elections “has the capacity to derail our entire democratic process and destabilise our dear nation.”
This is contained in a statement issued on Thursday by the Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, titled ‘2023: Minority Reps Task Buhari to Sign Amendment to Electoral Act to Avert Political Crisis.’
The statement partly read, “As representatives of the people, the Minority Caucus urges Mr President to avert an imminent political crisis which has the capacity of exacerbating the security situation in the country by immediately signing the Amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 and leave a legacy of a credible electoral process to the nation.
“Our caucus calls on all Nigerians, the Civil Society, the International Community and all lovers of democracy to prevail on President Buhari to immediately sign the amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 and save our nation from an avoidable crisis.”