BREAKING: Nigerian lawmakers reject bill requiring president to secure over 50% votes in presidential election

The House of Representatives has rejected a bill that sought to make it mandatory for presidential and governorship candidates to secure more than 50 percent of the total votes cast, to be declared winners.

The bill, sponsored by Awaji-inombek Abiante (PDP, Rivers), aimed to amend the 1999 constitution by removing the simple majority rule for presidential and governorship candidates.

Abiante’s proposal sought to amend sections 134 and 179 of the constitution, which provide the conditions to be elected president and governors, respectively.

In the case of a presidential candidate, they are only deemed elected after securing the “highest number of votes cast at the election; and they have not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,” as stated in Section 134 of the constitution.

Similarly, a governorship candidate must secure the highest number of votes cast at the election and have not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the state.

Abiante’s proposal sought to change the simple majority rule to a majority. In other words, when there are more than two candidates in the race, the winner must secure more than 50 percent of the total votes cast.

The bill aimed to prevent the scenario that played out during the last presidential election, where Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), emerged as the winner without securing the majority of the total votes cast. He had a simple majority, having polled 8.79 million of the total votes.

Over 90 million voters registered to vote in the 2023 presidential election, out of which only 88 million collected Permanent Voters Cards. Of this figure, only 25.2 million voted in the February 25 election.

Tinubu secured about 37 percent of the total votes cast in the election, a feat that was enough to meet the constitutional requirements.

No, to bill

However, the lawmakers did not allow Abiante to lead the debate on the bill. When Speaker Abbas Tajudeen put the question for the bill to be considered for a second reading, the “nays” were louder than the “ayes.”

Shocked by the development, the speaker repeated the voice votes again, and the voices of those opposed to the bill were louder.

Consequently, Tajudeen ruled in favour of those who wanted the motion thrown out.

However, even if the House of Reps passed the bill, it would still require a lengthy process to amend the constitution. It would have, among others, required the support of the Senate and approval by Houses of Assembly in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states.