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Electoral Bill: Gbajabiamila meets Buhari, insists NASS stands by direct primaries

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja met behind closed doors with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Speaking to State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, the speaker expressed optimism that the Electoral Bill recently passed by the National Assembly would soon be signed into law by the president.

According to him, the president has always supported direct primaries, adding that he has been a proponent from the very start.

Gbajabiamila said he was in the presidential villa to update the president on the happenings in the country as it affected the National Assembly in recent times.

He said: “I just came to brief the President about the goings-on in the country as it affects the National Assembly.

“So, we had fruitful discussions. We had fruitful discussions and tried to strike some synergy.

“We had a very robust discussion about the tripartite committee, Electoral Act amendment, which is what I am sure you are asking about. If I tell you we didn’t discuss that, I will be lying to you.

“You are aware that the National Assembly has passed the issue of direct primaries and electronic transmission of election results. That is the position of the National Assembly. It was passed by both houses.

“Hopefully, we will get the Electoral Act Amendment Bill transmitted now that he is back, very soon.

“We are hopeful it will become law and Nigerians will be better for it.”

On the reservation being expressed by some State Governors over direct primaries which they claimed would be too expensive for political parties and INEC, the speaker said the NASS could not put a price tag on democracy when making decisions.

“I have heard that argument about cost. And this is what I have to say. Do you put a price tag on democracy? I don’t think you should.

“What is too much and what is too little to buy freedom and democracy? I don’t think you should put a price tag on it.

“But we have passed the law. The official position of House of Representatives and the Senate, we are for direct primaries.

“We are for empowering the people at the grassroots level. Let everybody participate in governance. Democracy is defined as a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

“People is used three times in that definition. And it doesn’t start from general elections. It starts from primaries. So, we have made it very clear abundantly.”

On the president’s response to his presentations during the meeting, the speaker said:

“The President is happy. He will look at all the issues we have brought to his attention. We talked about the Electoral Act amendment. We talked about agricultural development and other issues.

“All of the issues, the president will look at them.”

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Chuka Francis

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