Court stops INEC from de-registering 33 political parties

Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from carrying out its planned de-registration of 33 political parties, pending the hearing of a suit challenging the powers of INEC to de-register political parties.

The Judge gave the order in a ruling, on an interlocutory injunction, brought against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice and the electoral body by the 33 political parties.

Although the restraining order is coming 11 days after INEC de-registered 74 political parties, Justice Chikere, however, adjourned till February 27, 2020, for hearing of 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 on behalf of his clients.

The plaintiffs, Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) All Blending Party (ABP) and 30 others had in March last year dragged the AGF and INEC before the Federal High Court over planned de-registration 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.

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In the main suit numbered: FHC/ABJ/CS/444/2019, the plaintiffs are praying the court to determine whether the provisions of Sections 225A b (I), b(ii), c(I), c (ii) c (iii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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 answered 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 disjunctively.

“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 retroactive 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, pray the court for an order of injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from exercising the powers conferred on it by section 225A (1)) and (c) of 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.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs on Friday brought an order of mandatory injunction for the court to compel INEC to restore the political parties to the status quo, the motion was supported by an affidavit of urgency.

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