INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega
•Group threatens to sue commission
Chuks Okocha and
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rejected the application of the controversial African Peoples Congress (APC), which is seeking registration as a political party.
The commission, in a letter dated March 21, hinged its rejection of the application by the group, which shares the same abbreviation with the All Progressives Congress (APC), an amalgam of four major opposition parties, on the premise that its application violated Section 222 (A) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Section 222 of the constitution, which stipulates the conditions a group must meet to be registered as a political party, reads: “No association by whatever name called shall function as a political party, unless: (a) the names and addresses of its national officers are registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
With its rejection, INEC has opened another phase in the identity crisis that has pitted it against the two political groups laying claim to the APC abbreviation.
While the commission’s decision could be said to have favoured the opposition parties’ coalition, the fracas over identity crisis is far from over, as the rival APC has vowed to head to court to challenge INEC’s rejection of its application.
In the letter signed by the secretary to the commission, Alhaji Addullahi Kaugama, which THISDAY sighted yesterday, INEC said the rival APC could not be registered as its application breached the guidelines for the registration of political parties.
INEC, in the three-paragraph letter to the acting Chairman of the African Peoples Congress, Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu, said the “Commission has observed some breaches of Section 222(a) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended:
“No association shall function as a political party in Nigeria without the addresses of the political party and that of the national officers.
“A close observation of the Form PA1 submitted by the African Peoples Congress did not contain the said addresses.
“Consequently, the commission shall not register African Peoples Congress as a political party.”
INEC’s letter to the rival APC came as the opposition parties notified the commission in writing of their readiness to merge as a political party to be known as the All Progressives Congress.
The parties are: Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Rejecting INEC’s decision yesterday, Ikeagwuonu, in a speech titled, “The Dark Forces are Gathering Again” delivered when 30 lawyers under the aegis of Lawyers in Defence of Democracy and Constitutionalism, led by Mr. Kelvin Nnamdi Okoro, paid him a courtesy call, said the group would fight the rejection of its application for registration.
Alleging that the country's democracy and rule of law had been ambushed, Ikeagwuonu said INEC had no reason not to register APC (African Peoples Congress) after the group had satisfied all the registration requirements and the stipulated 30 days within which the commission was expected to respond to the application.
According to him, “We are however constrained to draw your attention to the gathering of dark forces against a legitimate process. Our democracy, rule of law and the credibility of our electoral process stands at a crossroads.
“Conspirators and dark forces have infiltrated INEC! We wish to alert Nigerians of an ugly development, a black market transaction going on in INEC, which if not checked immediately, may murder the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria.
“Information at our disposal has uncovered the manipulative, tinkering and leakage of official documentations concerning the ongoing registration process of the African Peoples Congress.”
Ikeagwuonu said the party's leaders were particularly concerned about the activities “going on in the Legal Department of INEC,” where a certain group of senior staff was tampering with its documents to deny APC (African Peoples Congress) registration.
He explained that the group would not sit back and “watch these dark forces in INEC acting under the influence of a Lagos mafia to deny APC (African Peoples Congress) its constitutional right to registration.”
Ikeagwuonu at another forum yesterday, said the INEC documents required either residential address or telephone numbers, a requirement he said the group had complied with.
He also said the party had briefed its lawyers in anticipation of such action from INEC, “to put in motion processes to legally challenge this anti-democratic plot even up to the Supreme Court.”
Hours before the news got out that INEC had denied the rival African Peoples Congress registration, the ANPP had said the commission was yet to inform the opposition coalition of any conflict in the use of the APC abbreviation.
Briefing reporters shortly after the meeting of the ANPP Board of Trustees (BoT) yesterday in Abuja, the board Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, said the crisis of the merging parties’ registration was for INEC to decide, adding that so far, the commission had not informed the merging parties anything officially concerning the emergence of another rival group laying claims to the APC abbreviation.
On whether ANPP was satisfied with the progress made so far on the merger process, he said since the process was still ongoing, it would be too early to make an assessment now.
He explained that the BoT, at the end of the meeting, resolved to support the merger talks between it and other members of the opposition coalition.