Again, Court Says INEC Has Powers to De-Register Political Parties

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By Alex Enumah

Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court again on Thursday held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has powers and indeed was right to de-register political parties.

INEC had, on February 6, this year, de-registered 74 political parties for failing to win any political office in the last general election.

Dissatisfied, some 32 political parties had approached the court to challenge their de-registeration by INEC.

In a motion on notice with suit number: FHC//ABJ/ CS/444/19 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and 32 others Vs. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and INEC (1st and 2nd respondents respectively), the applicants prayed the court for an order restraining INEC from removing their names from the list of registered political parties.

Although 33 political parties filed the matter in court, two of the parties — Labour Party (LP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) — were later dropped from the suit because the parties were not de-registered by INEC.

On June 3, the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) prayed the court to be joined in the suit, making the total number of the de-registered parties to be 32.

Delivering judgment in the suit Thursday, Justice Chikere of a Federal High Court, Abuja, however okayed the powers of the INEC to de-register political parties.

The court, in its judgment, held that Section 225(a) of the Constitution gives INEC the powers to deregister parties that failed to comply with the provisions of the constitution.

The court in addition held that the plaintiffs failed to prove their case and subsequently dismissed the suit.

According to the judge, the parties failed to state sufficient facts to support their claims, while stating that where a provision of the law is unambiguous, it ought to be given its simple interpretation hence, Section 225(a) of Constitution is clear and unambiguous and should be interpreted in support of the de-registeration done by INEC.

The court also vacated the earlier injunction granted to the parties and dismissed their suit in its entirety.

The parties had filed their suit last year to restrain INEC from carrying out the exercise when they got to know about the plans of the commission.

The judge had earlier in February 2020 issued an order restraining INEC from acting on the notice de-registering the 32 political parties, pending the determination of the suit.

With this judgment, it now brings the total to 36, the numbers of political parties that have had their deregistration affirmed by the court.

With the judgment, the fate of the remaining deregistered parties hang in the balance.

For now, only 18 political parties not deregistered are the lawfully recognized political parties in Nigeria.

Some of the affected 32 political parties are, Advanced Congress of Democrats, Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, All Blending Party, All Grand Alliance Party, Better Nigeria Progressive Party, Democratic People’s Congress, Freedom and Justice Party and Green Party of Nigeria.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja had also ruled in favour of INEC against the National Unity Party (NUP) and Hope Democratic Party (HDP).