Hope Democratic Party (HDP) has asked a Federal High Court to commit the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, to prison for going ahead with the de-registration of political parties when a pending suit against the exercise was pending before the court.
The electoral body had last week announced the de-registration of 28 political parties including HDP, saying it acted in exercise of its powers under the I999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
They include Fresh Democratic Party, which was the brainchild of Pastor Chris Okotie; and Nigeria Advance Party, which was started by lawyer and businessman, Tunji Braithwaite, in the Second Republic.
Also notable on the list was the Second Republic’s People’s Redemption Party (PRP), which in 1979 won Kaduna and Kano States from the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the forerunner of today’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, in a motion ex-parte dated December 10, 2012, HDP is asking for an order of court compelling the appearance in court of the INEC Chairman to show cause why he should not be committed to prison for contempt of court or attempt to ridicule and or pre-empt the court following the unwarranted and malicious action of de-registering it as a political party.
In addition, the party which was represented in court by its presidential candidate in the 2011 election, Chief Ambrose Owuru, is seeking an order setting aside the decision as it was designed to pre-empt and or ridicule the court and destroy the subject matter of litigation before it.
In an affidavit in support, the party together with chief Samuel Wogu and Hon. Ezekiel Don Peters averred that since the case was instituted on March 10, 2011, INEC had neglected, failed or refused to appear or put up any appearance before the court, even when it had been dully served with all the court processes.
They further averred that INEC earlier threats to de-register plaintiff inspite of the pendency of the suit was eventually carried out on December 6, 2012 to pre-empt the outcome of the suit.
Before the de-registration exercise, the plaintiffs had filed a motion on notice dated October 11, 2011, asking the court presided by Justice E.S. Chukwu for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining INEC, its agents, servants or otherwise from interfering with its right of operation as a registered political party pending the hearing and determination of the substantive matter.
HDP said it was unconstitutional to prevent it from exercising its right of freedom of association and fair hearing and also its rights to sponsor and win elections at the legislative Assemblies in the country.
The party argued that by the combined reading of sections 40, 221 and 222 of the 1999 constitution, its rights as a political party to sponsor candidates at elections and from unduly victimised has been threatened with de-registration by overzealous government officials represented by the defendant.
Meanwhile, hearing of the case has been adjourned to December 13, to enable INEC enter its appearance in the suit.