Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Twenty two deregistered political parties who sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and obtained a court judgment restoring their registration via the Court of Appeal ruling on August 10, 2020, have alleged that the INEC is frustrating their efforts to regain recognition and participate fully in the electoral process.
In a statement titled, “Our Fear of Clandestine Moves By the INEC to Frustrate the 22 Political Parties Restored by the Court of Appeal on 10/08/2020,” the parties alleged that the INEC has deliberately ignored the court order by unlawfully excluding and refusing to put the parties on the ballot for Edo and Ondo States’ governorship elections.
The statement signed by the National Chairman of People Democratic Change (PDC), Mr. Igwe Emeka Benjamin, on behalf of other affected political parties and made available to THISDAY yesterday said: “We in the PDC and other parties restored by the Court of Appeal on 10/08/2020 have observed with horror, tepidity and awe at the antics of the IINEC to frustrate the 22 political parties restored by the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/ABJ/CV/507/2020, ACD & 21others vs. AG Federation and INEC.
“We have also observed that both the INEC and its solicitors have either neglected or refused to serve the 21 parties with all the necessary court papers such as Notice of Appeal and the Appellants Brief of Argument to enable them prepare adequately for the appeal.
“On Thursday, 26/11/2020, an Amended Brief of Argument and Motion on Notice with SC No. SC/CV/485/2020 dated 27/10/2020 from INEC’s solicitors was served on one of the 22 restored parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP), and ever since then no other party has been served with the above papers.
“We are afraid and of the opinion that there is an insidious motive behind the non-service of the court processes on the other parties, as the appellant the INEC may go on to falsely swear to an affidavit that they could not reach the remaining 21 parties.”
The parties claimed that at the time INEC served the parties with the notice of appeal, they restricted the service to only five political parties, and now they have restricted it to only one party, the UDP.
They also alleged that ever since the unanimous judgment was delivered by the Court of Appeal, the INEC has deliberately ignored the court order by unlawfully excluding, and refusing to put the parties on the ballot for Edo, Ondo governorship elections, and even the by- elections held in many states of the federation on December 5, 2020.
The statement further said that notices written by the 22 parties informing the commission of their intention to field candidates in those constituencies were rejected by INEC, which refused to acknowledge them.
The 22 parties alleged that the front desk of the INEC’s Chairman told them that they were under a strict and standing instruction not to accept any correspondence or correspondences from the restored parties either by hand, post or courier.
“The INEC is continuing in this disobedience to the Court of Appeal judgment despite having not set aside, applied for, or obtaining any stay of execution from the Court of Appeal. INEC’s disobedience to Court of Appeal or any other court judgment for that matter diminishes the quality of democracy and rule of law in our country since nobody or agency of government should arrogate to itself the power of determining the court order it should obey,” the affected parties said.