The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, affirmed the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties that failed to meet the requirements contained in Section 225 (a) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The court, in separate judgements that were delivered by Justice Evelyn Maha, dismissed as lacking in merit, two suits the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and Reform and Advancement Party (RAP) filed to challenge their deregistration by the electoral body.
The court held that the Plaintiffs failed to establish why they should continue to exist as political parties, having failed to secure any seat in previous elections.
It noted that the two deregistered parties did not in their pleadings, deny the fact that they were unable to meet the required statutory benchmark contained in section 225 of the Constitution.
Justice Maha stressed that INEC has a binding obligation to act in accordance with express provisions of the Constitution, saying it did not act ultra-vires its powers by withdrawing the registration of the Plaintiffs for their non-performance in past elections.
The Judge held that the use of the word “Shall” in section 225 of the Constitution placed a mandatory responsibility on INEC to de-register political parties that failed to meet the constitutional requirement.
The parties, which were among the 74 political parties that INEC de-registered on February 6, had in their suits, prayed the court to among other things, determine whether the powers vested on the INEC to register and regulate activities of political parties in Nigeria, in addition to the powers to deregister political parties provided in section 225A of the 4th alteration to the 1999 constitution and in section 78 (7a) (i) and (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended 2015), can be exercised when democratically organised election has not been conducted at the Federal and State levels; and in all the local government areas recognised in the 1999 Constitution.
They equally sought, “A declaration that the powers conferred on INEC to carry out a review of the performance of political parties after the 2019 general elections, to ascertain the political parties that qualify to continue as political parties and those that are due for deregistration, is not an absolute uncontrolled power and cannot be reasonably applied to a political party registered in less than five months to the 2019 general election, as such political parties require adequate time and resources to gradually establish their presence in the 36 states of the federation and seven hundred and sixty-eight local governments recognized in the 1999 Constitution.
As well as, “a declaration that the term failure to win at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in one State of the Federation in a Presidential election or 25 per cent of the votes cast in one Local Government Area of a State in a Governorship election.
“Failure to win at least one ward in a Chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State Assembly election or one seat in a Councillorship election”, provided in section 225A of the 4th alteration to the 1999 Constitution, for the purpose of assessing of political parties to determine compliance with the requirements for their registration cannot be reasonably conducted on the basis of local government Chairman and Ward Councillorship election conducted in the Federal Capital Territory only; but rather on the basis of local government chairmanship and ward councillorship election conducted in the seven hundred and sixty-eight local governments recognized in the 1999 Constitution.”
They prayed the court to compel INEC to immediately restore their registration as political parties in Nigeria.