Prof Attahiru Jega
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, Tuesday said that the commission would deregister more political parties before the 2015 general election, just as he said that the curtain had not closed on the registration of new political parties that meet the requirements for registration.
INEC had two weeks ago deregistered 28 political parties for sundry reasons, which included but was not limited to not winning a single councillorship election.
Jega, who disclosed this in Abuja while fielding questions from journalists shortly after the presentation of the commission's five-year strategic plan (2012-2016) at its validation conference with stakeholders, said that INEC would also register new political parties that meet the constitutional requirements within the period.
In justifying the deregistration of the 28 parties, Jega said: “We have taken the decision to deregister 28 parties and as far as we are concerned, we have acted legally.
“Of course, many political parties’ chieftains, especially of those deregistered, were not happy and we understand that and some of them have gone to court. But we are law-abiding and we await whatever judgment that will be made from those lawsuits.
“But we believe that the constitution and the Electoral Act have given us the responsibility to register and deregister any political party that falls short of meeting the requirements of the law.”
The INEC chairman, who foreclosed on the possibility of reviewing the decision on the deregistration of the affected parties, made it clear that the commission had followed due process and insisted that its action was in accordance with the laws of the land which could only be reversed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
According to him, “the commission acted in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by deregistering those 28 political parties, the same constitution gives the commission the power to register political parties and if there is a breach, such political parties will have to be deregistered.
“That was exactly what we did, and more will still go, just as we will also register new ones that meet the requirements for registration.”
While chairing the validation conference for INEC’s 2012-2016 strategic plan, Jega reiterated his desire to create an enabling environment for all stakeholders to partake in the country’s electoral process.
He canvassed for a national policy to cater for persons with disabilities, while ruling out the possibility of producing a ballot paper with braille writing for blind persons.
Nevertheless, he assured Nigerians that in spite of the constraints, INEC would do all within its power to ensure that persons with disabilities participate in the polls.
He said: “We will strive to meet the needs of all stakeholders to make the election environment friendly for all stakeholders and participants especially for those with disabilities. There are systemic challenges that are beyond our powers to deal with."
The INEC chairman added that it is impossible to produce ballot papers with braille writing for the visually impaired, explaining that INEC would continue to engage people with disabilities and listen to their suggestions for those that could be implemented.
In the strategic framework awaiting approval by stakeholders, INEC is seeking a constitutional framework for its electoral activities for the next five years. This would signpost a departure from the ad hoc planning that was the case in the past.
Under the plan, the commission will roll out a comprehensive voters’ awareness programme within the first quarter of 2013 and a delineation of constituencies before the 2015 general election.