APC and INEC
•INEC restructures, presents convention report to PDP
By Chuks Okocha and Tobi Soniyi
From the situation room, the battle for the registration of the African People’s Congress (APC), which shares the same abbreviation with opposition parties’ proposed coalition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has shifted to the law court.
The rival APC, whose bid for registration as a political party by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was perceived as part of a plot to stop the merger of the opposition parties on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, has gone to the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge INEC’s refusal to register it.
It is also asking the court to stop the registration of any political group that shares the APC abbreviation with it, pending the determination of its lawsuit.
INEC had last month rejected the rival APC’s application for registration because, among others, it did not disclose the names of all its officials.
The commission, which Tuesday announced its restructuring, also presented to the party the report of the March 2012 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in which it faulted the election of eight members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
The plaintiffs, numbering about 30 who sued on behalf of themselves and the political group, are seeking a declaration that INEC lacked the discretion and/or has no power to refuse to register an association as a political party once the conditions stipulated by the commission for registration have been met.
In an application filed by their counsel, Ededem Ani of Awa Kalu Chambers, they asked the court to declare that being the principal members and promoters of the association known as African People’s Congress, they have met all conditions of eligibility for the registration as a political party.
The plaintiffs also want an order directing INEC to register the association, an order prohibiting the registration of any other association known as or called the African People’s Congress or having the APC abbreviation as a political party pending the hearing and determination of their application.
The plaintiffs are also seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from registering any other association or known as and called the African People’s Congress or having the abbreviation “APC” as a political party.
The plaintiffs hinged their reliefs on the premise that INEC had given notice to the plaintiffs in directing their intention to apply to register the association called APC as a political party and that INEC outlined in writing to them the conditions to be met for the registration of an association as a political party.
They said they had complied or substantially complied with all the conditions INEC stipulated but it declined to register the association on tenuous grounds.
In an affidavit deposed to by the rival APC acting National Chairman, Chief Onyiye Ikeagwonu, and filed in support of the application, the party said the association had submitted all relevant documents to INEC to support its application for registration.
He further stated that the association had complied with all the requirements for registration but that INEC had refused to register it.
He averred that for the purpose of the registration of the rival APC, the association paid INEC N100, 000 .00 and N900, 000.00 for the registration and was issued with receipt no 085003 dated March 4, 2013.
He said at no time had INEC informed the association that the N1 million it paid as registration fees would be non-refundable.
He said: “That the plaintiffs considered the failure of the INEC to refund its registration fees as confirmation that the conditions stipulated by INEC for the registration of the African People’s Congress as a political party had been fully complied with.”
The case could not come up for hearing yesterday because all judges had gone to attend a refresher course on judgment writing.
After weeks of bickering, the PDP Tuesday got a copy of the INEC report on the March 2012 national convention of the party that faulted the election of eight members of the PDP NWC.
Officials of INEC presented the report to the party’s National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, in Abuja.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, who confirmed that the party had received the report, said: “The INEC report of the March 24, 2012 national convention was received today (Tuesday) by the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur. It was presented by officials of INEC. This is all I can say.”
The PDP had expressed concern over the INEC report, which it had termed a destabilisation plot targeted at the party’s NWC.
Already, some persons, Hon. Abba K. Yale, Alhaji Yahaya Aruwa Sule and Basher Maidugu, have filed a suit at the Federal Capital Territory High Court against the eight NWC members for their failure to meet the constitutional requirements to stay in office as officials of the PDP.
The presentation of the report came just as the commission said it would not react to the Court of Appeal ordered reinstatement of Chief Victor Umeh as the national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
INEC declined comment on who is now the de facto APGA national chairman following the election of Chief Maxi Okwu at a national convention of the party on Monday and the ruling by the Court of Appeal that reinstated Umeh as the party’s chairman.
The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, told THISDAY that the commission could not comment on the Court of Appeal’s ruling, adding, “All the commission can say at the moment is that it is awaiting the order of the Court of Appeal in Enugu. In view of this, the commission cannot make any categorical statement on this matter.”
In the meantime, the commission Tuesday announced that it had carried out a major restructuring exercise involving the redeployment and retirement of some of its 67 directors preparatory to the 2015 general election.
Also, directors of the commission who have less than two years before retirement were asked to take the option of retiring voluntarily and being paid upfront or face redeployment.
The restructuring, it was gathered, involved the reduction of the departments from 26 to nine while the directorates were reduced to 10.
When contacted, Idowu confirmed the reorganisation in INEC, explaining that 26 departments had been reduced to nine.
“There are now fewer departments in the commission being headed by people who are considered best suited to make the departments functional,” he said.
The press secretary said the reorganisation was based on the recommendation made by its consultants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which had been contracted by the commission to develop a restructuring plan.