INEC Chairman, ATTAHIRU JEGA
Leaders of the 28 political parties recently de-registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Thursday vowed to ignore their proscription.
The leaders, who expressed outrage at the INEC’s action during a joint press conference in Abuja, accused the commission of abuse of constitutional process.
Spokesman of the aggrieved parties and National Chairman of African Liberation Party (ALP), Chief Emmanuel Okereke, said INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, went ahead with de-registration of the parties in utter disregard to the subsisting court order to the contrary.
According to him, by his action, Jega is in contempt of the Federal High Court.
But the INEC chair, in defending his action, had faulted allegations that commission’s action was subjudiced as he argued that no political party that had a case with INEC on the issue was deregistered.
Okereke said the parties had resolved to ignore the de-registration and would go ahead with their normal activities pending the final decision on its court case challenging INEC’s action.
“We are warning him (Jega) to tender his resignation letter because what he has done is a clear indication that the commission under him cannot conduct a credible election. He has shown that he is no longer capable of managing our electoral process,” he said.
Okereke accused INEC of carrying out a premeditated act having changed the date for the April 2011 general election from that that was originally scheduled.
According to him, the sudden change in the election date, which had huge cost implications, led to the dismal performance of the weaker parties.
He also said N180 million was appropriated in this year’s budget for INEC to organise meetings with parties but Jega did not meet with them.
“INEC has a hidden agenda to reduce parties in the country to a two-party system. Since Prof. Attahiru Jega assumed office as chairman of INEC, he has never called a meeting of political parties,” he said.
Another party leader, Mr. Damian Ogbonna of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), while reading resolutions of the parties, said INEC acted in a most reckless manner known to democratic world and against the 1999 Constitution by embarking on such an anti-democratic mission.
“INEC acted in contemptuous disregard of court proceedings giving that the constitutionality of de-registration of political, parties and the offending provisions of the Electoral Act are being litigated against at the Federal High Court in Lagos and Abuja.
“In fact, an application for judicial order to restrain INEC from de-registration of any political party was filed and served on INEC as far back as May 23, this year,” he said.
He accused INEC of waging a war against the rights of Nigerians to freely associate.
“In the light of the INEC’s action, we, the political parties of Nigeria, will continue to function as full-fledged political parties in strict compliance with the provisions Section 221-2/9 of the constitution of Nigeria,” he said.
Earlier, some of the party leaders who spoke to THISDAY made reference to what obtains in other parts of the world where they said the number of political parties is as high as 177.
For instance, the party leaders said South Africa as many as 159 registered political parties, while the United States had 210 recognised.
Meanwhile, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP)has backed Jega’s proposal to hold all elections same day.
A statement thursday by ANPP’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, said the party was encouraged by the call.
"We are encouraged by this welcome development, though we wonder why we should wait till 2015 to start reaping the benefits of this historic electoral policy. In any case, this is a pointer that our vision of free and fair elections is about to become a reality. With free and fair elections, the problems faced by our great nation shall be solved and we will begin to excel," he said.
Eneukwu said it was on record that the party, under the leadership of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, was the first to call for all elections to be held in one day, remarking that apart from saving cost and guaranteeing better participation, it will reduce the prospect of rigging during the polls.
"For instance, some people that may only want to vote for a particular presidential candidate during the presidential election alone will now be made to join in voting for the legislative members because the whole voting holds on the same day.
"As we can testify, when massive number of citizens turns out to vote, it will be very difficult to rig or manipulate the process. Moreover, it will also erase the problem of bandwagon effect that always dogs the electoral process and threatens the stability of the polity.
"Furthermore, we wish to use this opportunity to call on the National Assembly to also consider our other suggestion on how to achieve free and fair elections. We want a situation where after elections, all matters concerning electoral litigation and court cases would have been solved and concluded before swearing-in.
"We envisage that this will stop all the bad blood and unnecessary advantage conferred on the incumbents as they are predisposed to use the resources and powers of government for their electoral litigation, thereby provoking strife in the political space," Eneukwu said.