Last week’s deregistration of 28 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has generated divergent views from those affected, concerned Nigerians and legal experts. But Chuks Okocha who has been monitoring events says it was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’
The now controversial deregistration of 28 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was long in coming. This is because the commission, through the amendments to the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act (2010), had long signified its intention to wield the big stick in ensuring that it would not allow political parties which are not contributing to the nation’s political development to continue to crowd the space. First, the commission through the National Assembly got an amendment that stopped the payments allowances to some of the registered political parties.
Hitherto, the commission, by constitutional compulsion was paying allowances to all the political parties that fielded candidates during elections as well as parties that won seats at the National Assembly. It was because of the allowances that some of the parties fielded candidates during elections. But INEC went a step further with the amendment which stipulates that allowances or honorariums be paid only to parties that won seats at the National Assembly.
In the new amendments as contained in the electoral act as amended, INEC was empowered to deregister political parties whose activities it considers idle and docile, as well as those that did not field candidates during elections.
Consequently, INEC served its first salvo at the National Action Council (NAC) founded by Olapade Agoro and deregistered it. It was not surprising therefore that INEC, last Thursday, hammered 28 more political parties in line with the powers conferred on it.
In a statement by the Secretary of the Commission, Abduallahi Kaugama, INEC announced the de-registration of the 28 Political parties.
“In the exercise of the powers conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Independent National Electoral Commission has today, Thursday, December 6, 2012, de-registered the following political parties: African Liberation Party (ALP), Action Party of Nigeria (APN), African Political System (APS), Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Community Party of Nigeria (CPN), Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA), Freedom Party of Nigeria (FPN), Fresh Democratic Party (FDP), Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Justice Party (JP), Liberal Democratic Party of Nigeria (LDPN), Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ), Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) and Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP).
Other deregistered parties are: New Democrats (ND), National Majority Democratic Party (NMDP), National Movement of Progressive Party (NMPP), National Reformation Party (NRP), National Solidarity Democratic Party (NSDP), Progressive Action Congress (PAC), Peoples Mandate Party (PMP), Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), People’s Salvation Party (PSP), Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN), United National Party for Development (UNPD) and United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP).
However, prominent Nigerians who were affected by this action are Pastor Chris Okotie’s Fresh Democratic Party; Balarabe Musa’s Peoples Redemption Party; and the National Reformation Party, founded by the late nationalist, Anthony Enahoro; the National Advance Party of Dr. Tunji Braithwaite and Democratic Peoples Alliance of ex-Finance Minister, Chief Olu Falae.
Although, the commission did not state reasons for its action, it may not be unconnected to the fact that license granted some of the affected parties might have been withdrawn because of their inability to win any seat during the 2011 elections. Thus, the exercise was nothing but a disaster waiting to happen.
Party registration had become a brisk business in the hands of those who cashed in on the weak conditions for registration to make quick money for themselves. It was as bad as some of the parties used residential addresses and kiosks as their official correspondence address. This became the vogue as INEC officials were weak in monitoring and confirming the addresses posted by the political parties for the purposes of registration.
Indeed, many of the parties depended solely on INEC’s subvention to survive. Before the latest development conceived by the new Election Management Board led by Professor Attahiru Jega, there were pockets of crisis amongst the deregistered parties on how to retrieve their honorarium. The commission’s staff did not help matters as they also connived with parties’ officials to hasten the collection of the allowances. But such pockets of crisis had since stopped immediately INEC stopped the payments.
Expectedly, the development has attracted reactions from Nigerians, including legal opinions. While some justified the legality of INEC’s action, others held that the move was outright illegality.
Braithwaite whose party was also affected vowed to contest INEC’s action and accused the commission of infringing on fundamental human rights of citizens.
“I am not aware of the deregistration; and if it is true, they are wasting their time. It is a matter we shall address. We will not accept it. It is an interference with the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people”.
Musa, on his part, said INEC’s action would not stand. He said he was not told why his political party that it has been de-registered.
“We have contempt for those who think they can kill PRP and what it stands for. We will rely on Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution to continue to function as a political party and also continue the struggle for democracy. This deregistration will not stand. In fact, it is the beginning of dictatorship in Nigeria by Jega and it will not stand,” he said.
But Chief Press Secretary to Jega, Kayode Idowu, in his reaction said that the deregistered political parties were duly informed of the commission’s action. “The statement is clear and the commission contacted the affected political parties and they know the reasons for our action.”
Okotie, on his part, said: “This situation is repugnant to the constitution of Nigeria and it demonstrates the leadership tragedy that has befallen our dear country. But I have faith in God and I hope that the judiciary will erase this aberration from our political landscape permanently. We will proceed to the court.”
The pastor turned politician accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of importing autocracy into the nation’s political system. “The 2015 fever has affected the logical acumen and political sensibility of the PDP. It is obvious to me that the last presidential campaign has left a deep scar in the psyche of the party and what we are seeing is the manifestation of that vindictive purposelessness.”
He accused the PDP of masterminding the exercise, adding that: “Not only is the PDP in cahoots with INEC, they have also established themselves as a political party that is characterized by medieval autocracy.”
National Publicity Secretary of CNPP, Osita Okechukwu, said, “It is the candid view of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) that INEC lacks the moral and legal capacity to de-register political parties as the Supreme Court judgment on the registration of political parties is still subsisting. At any rate, the strength of political parties cannot today be determined because of the sham and less than transparent elections INEC conducts. For instance, how can somebody de-register Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) with all the massive Aminu Kano followership in the North?
“It is unfortunate that Professor Jega, against his previous high pedigree, has allowed himself to be recruited by the PDP; a party that failed to deliver on the dividends of democracy and whose game-plan is to use subterfuge and brinksmanship to hang on to power,” he said.
However, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metu, has commended INEC for weeding out political parties that have become docile and idle in the course of the current democratic journey.
“What INEC did by way of deregistering the 28 political parties is in line with the functions and duties of the commission as enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended and the Electoral Act as amended. We, as a political party cannot question their decision to deregister non-performing political parties.”
On the legal front, many learned persons have advanced different opinions on the deregistration of the political parties. Joe Gadzama and Abubakar Malami, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), backed INEC’s action and said it would make the political system more efficient.
But Mike Ahamba, also a SAN, disagreed with his colleagues and argued that INEC’s action was illegal as it violated the constitutional rights of members of the concerned political parties.
Although, another SAN supported INEC’s action as being in the right direction, he, however, agreed with Ahamba that INEC breached the right to freedom of association of members of the deregistered parties.