For want of perceived financial challenges over the proposed direct primaries, the legislative arm specifically the House of Representatives has concluded plans inviting the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Although, there has been speculation regarding funding challenges should in case the Electoral Act Amendment Bill seeking to Empower Direct Primaries is signed to law but the National Assembly Members their willingness to approve a loan for the federal government to fund the Election should the budget surpasses N500bn
Recall that the National Assembly had on the 9th of November, 2021, passed the bill which makes it mandatory for all political parties to elect candidates through direct primaries.
The bill was subsequently transmitted to the President on November 19 and is expected to sign it or return it to the National Assembly by December 19.
The President On its part had written a letter to the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, seeking comment from INEC over the Electoral Act amendment bill.
INEC National Commissioner for Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, had told journalists in an interview that the direct primaries would cost a lot more especially in terms of personnel.
However, some other reports have it that the cost could be as high as N500bn. The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had repeatedly stated that Buhari would consider economic and security factors as well as the general interest of Nigerians before signing or withdrawing assent to the bill.
But the House of Representatives on Thursday said it was willing to allocate the needed funds to INEC to supervise the direct primaries to be conducted by political parties in the election of candidates for the 2023 general elections.
The House, therefore, invited the INEC chairman to come and make it known to the parliament what it would cost the country to conduct direct primaries for all parties.
The House is to make the provision in the 2022 Appropriation Bill which is under consideration by the National Assembly.
At the plenary on Thursday, the lawmaker representing Yagba-East/Yagba-West/Mopa-Muro Federal Constituency in Kogi State, Leke Abejide, moved a motion of urgent public importance to urge the House to invite INEC to declare the cost, “so that all the insinuations that that are going around can be cleared to the whole nation.”
Before the lawmaker moved the motion, he met with the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila,
After Abejide left, the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, also met with Gbajabiamila at the Speaker’s seat.
Moving the motion, Abejide said the INEC chairman should “brief the Committee on INEC and Appropriations because now that we are considering the (2022) appropriation that is still within the National Assembly for possible consideration for whatever it is going to cost for these direct primaries.”
The lawmaker added, “We are all aware of the importance of direct primary and how it will transfer power to the real people, where they will be able to select or elect the people that will represent them from the Presidency down to the councillorship. And there has been a lot of noise about the cost implications.
“People have been saying that it will gulp N500bn but this is just hearsay, nobody has ever sat down to check the actual cost that it is going to cost the nation. It may be something that is within the capacity of the budget of INEC or something that we can even appropriate for, in this period that we are still considering this budget.
“So, it is important for us to invite the chairman of INEC to meet with the Committees on INEC in this hallowed chamber, and that on appropriations, for him to be able to tell them what is going to cost to do this direct primary.”
A lawmaker, who wished to remain anonymous, said a loan could be granted to ensure that INEC can execute its budget.
“No amount of money is too much to ensure that we have credible elections. Since we already grant loans for government projects, nothing stops us from approving loans for the execution of the election. Some of us are even willing to sacrifice the N100bn yearly constituency project fund to ensure that direct primary is adopted,” he said.