The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), says the President Muhammadu Buhari, will consider the security and financial implications of direct primaries before signing the Electoral Act amendment bill into law.
Malami said this on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme on Sunday which was monitored by our correspondent.
The Indepedent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had stated recently that the direct primary mode would gulp more public funds while a tally by The PUNCH showed that the cost of the 2023 elections could be pushed beyond N350bn if the direct primary method is adopted.
Most governors have rejected the direct mode of primary while the National Assembly insists that it be signed into law.
Several political parties have also kicked against the direct primary, stating that it is undemocratic.
It was reported last week that the All Progressives Congress governors had begun lobbying Malami with a view to convincing him to advise the President not to sign the bill.
While refusing to give an opinion on the matter, Malami stated that the President would be guided by the need for justice, legal issues, the security situation in the country and the cost.
Malami stated, “One thing I can tell you is that whatever the decision the President will eventually make arising from the amendment will be a decision that will be based on justice that will be based on the public interest, the security interest and the economic interest of the nation.
“All these things will be factored by the President on arriving at a decision on whether to assent to a bill or not and I do not see this electoral bill being different in terms of the exercise of the discretion of the President. All the necessary material factors both economic, security, judicial, legal and otherwise will naturally come in as far as the discretion of the President is concerned.”
Malami also clarified the controversy regarding the $139m recovered from Keystone Bank.
The Executive Director, North and Public Sector Directorate, Keystone Bank, Lawal Ahmed, at an investigative hearing last week stated that Malami asked the bank to pay government’s funds to the tune of $96m in dollars while $40m be paid in naira at a rate of N303/$1.
Reacting, the justice minister stated that the money was paid into the Treasury Single Account and this was the prevailing exchange rate at the time in 2017.
Malami further argued that the payment method was varied because the bank did not have enough dollars.