Buhari finally signs Nigeria’s new electoral bill into law

Nigeria

Published on Friday, 25 February 2022 Back to articles

President Buhari signs Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 into law

On 25 February, just as Nigeria Focuswent to press, President Muhammadu Buhari finally signed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 into law following widespread protests by civil society organisations who were demanding that he do so. This was three weeks after an amended version had been returned to him by the National Assembly and despite him publicly expressing his opposition to certain sections. He now plans to send a proposal to what is likely to be a pliant House of Representatives to try and effect the changes to those sections — and specifically Section 84 — which he claims are unconstitutional.

This was the sixth attempt at getting the bill signed into law. The latest version appears to address almost all the concerns raised by Buhari about previous ones he rejected (Nigeria Focus, January 2022). Yet coming this close to the end of the 30-day period within which he is legally obliged to accept or reject the legislation revealed his continued hesitation.

In rejecting the previous version of the bill, Buhari criticised its provision for direct primaries as the only means of selecting candidates, saying it was likely to make the process cumbersome and unduly expensive. He asked for changes including adding options for indirect primaries and consensus candidature, promising to sign once the changes were made. 

Rather than override the president’s veto, lawmakers quickly made the changes and returned the bill to Buhari’s desk. As the days ticked by, however, matters weren’t helped by Attorney-General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami hinting in a television interview that he would advise Buhari to sign only if the bill did not serve ‘selfish interests.’

Of concern to Malami, it appears, were provisions in Section 84 that bar those holding political appointments — ministers, commissioners, or board chairs of state enterprises — from voting or being voted for in party primaries unless they quit their positions. Malami, who has been one of Buhari’s most powerful ministers, is seen as having presidential ambitions. 

The lawmakers were also fighting for their political life. The initial insistence on direct primaries only and the decision to stop political appointees were aimed at whittling down the powers of incumbents and governors at federal and state levels to determine winners in the primaries. 

Without the new electoral law, there would have been no time to prepare another in time for the 2023 election. The vote would have to rely on the 2010 law which is widely viewed as obsolete because it has no answers to the ballot stuffing, vote theft, and falsification of figures that tend to favour incumbents backed by security forces.

Many people see Buhari’s decision to sign as an indication he has no interest in determining who succeeds him. Otherwise, he would have needed the grey areas afforded by the old law, as was the case in 2019. According to senior party officials and presidential aides, however, this isn’t necessarily so. He is in favour of arriving at the choice of a presidential candidate through a process of consensus — essentially gang-pressing party members to support his choice — who would then be provided with all the resources incumbency can muster to help him prevail at the polls.

Buhari is now expected to send a request to the National Assembly for an amendment which would delete Section 84. It is likely that a pliant National Assembly will oblige him despite it having been deliberately inserted in order to protect its members’ interests. It protects MPs and Senators against a situation in which the governors, and even the president, have an edge during the party primaries because all their appointed officials are automatic delegates who can vote and almost always vote for those candidates who are favoured by the governors.

This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Nigeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

The February 2022 issue of Nigeria Focus also includes the following:

Spotlight

  • Buhari backs down on ending the fuel subsidy
  • Implications

Energy Industry 

  • Seplat buys ExxonMobil’s shallow assets
  • Off-spec gasoline 
  • Dangote Refinery online soon
  • Mystery explosion destroys FPSO
  • Struggling to meet OPEC quota

Niger Delta

  • Wike vs bush refiners
  • Realigning for 2023

Politics & Society

  • APC convention deferred again
  • Presidential politicking
  • Talking about an alternative
  • Buhari signs electoral bill 
  • No respite on security
  • Rot within the police force

Economy & Finance

  • Economy beats all estimates
  • Borrowing binge continues 

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