Acting APGA National Chairman, Maxi Okwu
By Chuks Okocha in Abuja
As partners in the new opposition coalition party, All Progressive Congress, try to firm up details of the merger prior its registration with the Independent National Electoral Commission, it has emerged that All Progressives Grand Alliance may not be officially recognised in the merger. This is due to the current divisions within APGA, which might make it difficult for the party to meet the statutory conditions for inclusion in such a merger.
A National Commissioner with INEC, who preferred anonymity, disclosed that while individuals and groups within APGA may join the merger in exercise of their freedom of association, APGA might not have the status of a political party in the new alliance party as the commission applies the rules to the letter.
The national commissioner said, “From the look of things, APGA is not officially part of the merger. It cannot be ruled out that a faction of the party, apparently, led by Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha is leading the party into the merger, but his interest collides in Anambra State with the views of another faction that is against the merger.
“Even the national chairman, Victor Umeh, is not officially part of the merger and he is the recognised chairman by the commission. So unless there a national convention legally summoned by him and supervised by INEC, I’m afraid INEC will not recognise APGA as a member of the merger political party that is known as All Progressive Congress. “The same is applicable to any party within the group of merging political parties.”
He explained that there was also nothing wrong with Okorocha and his group joining the APC, in accordance with their right of association under the 1999 Constitution, but “not as a full-fledged political party.”
The INEC commissioner explained, “We are waiting on the merging political parties to officially inform us and we then commence our oversight function. Not until that is done, we are still waiting.
“INEC will ensure that the national conventions are conducted in line with the constitutions of the merging political parties and, thereafter, the parties concerned will give INEC their certificates of registration and a new one would be issued.”
Section 84 of the Electoral Act, as amended, states, “Any two or more registered political parties may merge on approval by the commission following a formal request presented to the commission by the political parties for that purpose.
“(2) Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the commission 90 days notice of their intention to do so before a general election.
“(3) The written request for merger shall be sent to the chairman of the commission and shall be signed jointly by the National Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer for the time being of the different political parties proposing the merger and shall be accompanied by:-
(a) a special resolution passed by the National Convention of each of the political parties proposing to merge, approving the merger;
(b) the proposed full name and acronym, constitution, manifesto, symbol or logo of the party together with the addresses of the national office of the party resulting from the merger; and
(c) evidence of payment of administrative costs of N100,000 or as may be fixed from time to time by an Act of the National Assembly.
“(4) On receipt of the request for merger of political parties the commission shall consider the request; and if the parties have fulfilled the requirements of the constitution and this act, approve the proposed merger and communicate its decision to the parties concerned before the expiration of thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of the formal request.
“Provided that if the commission fails to communicate its decision with 30 days the merger shall be deemed to be effective.
“(5) Where the request for the proposed merger is approved, the commission shall forthwith withdraw and cancel the certificates of registration of all the political parties opting for the merger and substitute, therefore, a single certificate of registration in the name of the party resulting from the merger.”
The Electoral Act also stipulates that any request for merger received by INEC less than 90 days before a general election shall not be considered.
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Kayode Idowu, told THISDAY that the commission would ensure strict adherence to the Electoral Act on the issue of merger.
“The Electoral Act is there and it would be followed in line with letters of section 84 of the Act, as amended,” he said.