Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from carrying out its planned de-registeration of 31 political parties, pending the hearing of a suit challenging the powers of INEC to deregister.
Justice Chikere gave the order in a ruling on an interlocutory injunction brought against the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and INEC by the 31 political parties.
Although the restraining order is coming 11 days after the electoral umpire deregistered 74 political parties, Justice Chikere however adjourned till February 27 for hearing in the substantive suit.
The court had on January 23 fixed ruling for Monday February 17, after counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Kehinde Edun, moved and argued the interlocutory motion.
The plaintiffs, Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) All Blending Party (ABP) and 28 others had in March last year dragged the AGF and INEC before the Federal High Court over planned de-registeration of political parties.
Justice Chikere in the ruling held that the plaintiffs have legal rights which must be protected and consequently ordered the defendants to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the main suit.
In the main suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CS/444/2019, the plaintiffs asked the court to determine whether the provisions of sections 225A b(I) , b(ii), c(I), c(ii) c(iii) of the 1999 constitution, introduced by the 4th Alteration Act number 9 of 2017, are to be construed disjunctively/alternatively or whether they are to be construed conjunctively.
“Whether the 2nd defendant can exercise any power under section 225A (b) and (c) of the 1999 constitution without conclusive and democratic elections be first heard and concluded into all electoral constituencies of the federation.
“Whether having regards to the lack of authority by the 2nd defendant to conduct and determine the winners for chairmanship and councillorship elections into Local Government and Wards in the federation the 2nd defendant should be allowed to exercise power to de-register political parties for failure to win election into such seats” and others.
The plaintiffs said if the above questions are in the affirmative, the court should declare that the provisions of sections 225A b(I) , b(ii), c(I), c(ii) c(iii) of the 1999 constitution, introduced by the 4th Alteration Act number 9 of 2017, are intended to be construed dis-junctively.
“A declaration that the power conferred on the 2nd defendant by section 225A (b) and (c) of the 1999 constitution to de-register political parties could not have been intended to have any retro-active effect and as such election into all electoral constituencies must first be held before the power of the second defendant under this can accrue.
They therefore prayed the court for an order of injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from exercising the powers conferred on it by section 225A (1)) and (c) o’ the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I999 until conclusive and democratic elections are held into the presidency, all Governorship, National Assembly, State Assembly, Local Government Chairmanship and Councillorship positions in the Federation, which elections must have been held after this section was introduced.
“An order of injunction restraining the second defendant from exercising its powers to de-register the plaintiffs or any political party for that matter as the second defendant does not have the powers to conduct election into all the positions listed in section 225 A(b) and (c) of the 1999 constitution.
“An order of injunction restraining the second defendant from deregistering the Plaintiffs or any political party for that matter for failure to win seats or certain percentages of the vote cast at the 20I9 general election as these political parties could have won but for irregularities and cancellations perpetrated by persons who are not agents of the political parties.
The plaintiffs however on Friday brought an order of mandatory injunction for the court to compel INEC to restore the political parties to status quo, the motion was supported by an affidavit of urgency.
Meanwhile, IPAC President, Chief Peter Ameh said from the order of the court, INEC had been restrained from deregistration of political parties.
Ameh who addressed journalists shortly after the court pronouncement also said that those who wanted to topple the leadership of IPAC on account of the INEC’s party deregistration had failed.
He said: “we believe in the spirit and letters of the law and that was why we did not call our members out to protest. We went to court to defend our rights and to ensure that our children will not be afraid to join an association or political party because it will be deregistered the next day without recourse to provisions of the constitution of the land”.