A Federal High Court in Abuja has affirmed the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties that failed to comply with the provisions of the law.
The provision of the law under reference is Section 225(a) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The section stated that “The Independent National Electoral Commission shall have the power to deregister a political party for: (a) breach of any of the requirements for registration.”
Justice Taiwo Taiwo in a judgment delivered in the suit filed by the National Unity Party, one of the 74 parties deregistered by the INEC in February, affirmed that the constitutional power of the electoral commission and the reasons given by the Commission for the deregistration of parties are valid, in conformity with the law, sacrosanct.
The judge held that the decision of INEC could not be affected by the fact of anticipated local govt elections by some states which dates were not fixed, certain, or even ascertainable.
The court, therefore, held that the deregistration of the National Unity Party as a political party in Nigeria was lawfully done in exercise of vested constitutional powers of the INEC in accordance with Section 225(a) of the 1999 Constitution.
The court’s decision was delivered on May 18 but a certified true copy of the judgment was issued on May 27 and sighted by our reporter on Thursday.
The deregistration of the political parties by INEC had generated a lot of controversies, with INEC holding the position that after fulfilling their constitutional roles of conducting presidential, federal and state legislative, governorship and FCT council elections, it was right for it to go ahead with the deregistration of the parties that did not meet the benchmark set by the law.
Barring any contrary decision by the appellate court, if the decision is appealed, only 18 political parties will be able to participate in the Edo and Ondo State Governorship elections scheduled to hold on September 19, 2020 and October 10, 2020.
The 18 parties that survived
The 18 parties that survived INEC’s hammer include Accord Party (A), Action Alliance (AA), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
Others are Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Yakubu, however, said one of the political parties, Action Peoples Party (APP), filed a suit in court and obtained an order restraining the commission from deregistering it, and so remained registered pending the determination of the case by the court.
He also said the 18th party, which was a new political party, Boot Party (BP), registered by court order after the 2019 general elections, will also continue to exist.
‘Better to register new party than appealing the judgment’
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the defunct United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, has urged the deregistered parties that went to court to rather register for new parties than appeal the judgement validating their deregistration.
Chief Okorie told Daily Trust in an interview that his experience during the APGA leadership crisis showed that the nation’s judiciary left much to be desired and that the 2023 general elections might have come and gone by the time the appeals would have reached the Supreme Court.