Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari that direct primaries will disfavour existing political parties from a legal standpoint, a report has revealed.
Malami made his thoughts known in a letter he addressed to the president, highlighting the pros and cons of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill transmitted to the executive by the National Assembly, according to the Punch.
The newspaper reported that the AGF’s letter on the amended Electoral Act bill was received by President Buhari about two weeks ago.
Quoting what it described as an “impeccable source” in the ministry, the publication said Malami told the president that making direct primaries mandatory for all political parties could cause confusion.
“The AGF has sent his advice on the Electoral Act amendment bill to the President. He has highlighted the problems of the bill.
“The AGF, however, did not quote any section of the law that makes it illegal which is unlike the previous letters he writes to the President.
The office of the AGF sent its position two weeks ago. They raised a number of issues. For instance, if you are asking political parties to run direct primaries, from a strictly legal point of view that would mean that only new political parties will be bound by the law.
“Existing political parties will not, because they have registered their parties, they have filed their constitutions long time ago on the basis of what is contained there. And most of it is a mixture, if you check the parties, direct and indirect primaries are stated.
“So, are you going to change their constitutions for them? So, this is the legal opinion. But this is just one. There are several other legal positions which favours and disfavours the bill because, as the Minister of Justice, his duty is to tell the president the pros and the cons. It is now up to the President to decide on which way to go,” the source was quoted as saying.
However, Umar Gwandu, the spokesperson of the AGF, said he is not in a position to confirm the content of the letter.
“The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is attending the 2021 United Nations Conference of State Parties on Anti-Corruption currently holding in Egypt.
“I am not in a position to confirm whether any opinion has been proffered by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice over the Electoral Act amendment bill. I cannot ascertain the veracity of your claims at this moment,” he told the newspaper.
But Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, confirmed that the AGF transmitted a letter to the president concerning the electoral act (amendment) bill.
The presidential spokesperson, however, declined to confirm the content of the letter, saying he has not been briefed.
Shehu said: “Yes. I can confirm that the President has received a communication from the honourable minister on the matter but honestly, I am not privy to the content of the communication. I have not been briefed.”
President Buhari has until 19 December to sign the bill into law or veto it and communicate his reasons to the National Assembly.
If after 30 days, the President refuses to sign the bill and the National Assembly is not in support of the President’s amendments, the Senate and the House of Representatives can recall the bill and pass it. If the bill is passed in the form it was sent to the President by two-thirds majority votes in both chambers, the bill automatically becomes a law even without the signature of the President.