By Gilbert Ekezie
Governorship candidate of National Conscience Party (NCP) in Edo State between 2016 and 2020, Pastor Peters Osawaru Omoragbon has called on the National Assembly to expunge section 255a of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He made the call recently in Asaba, Delta State as part of the memorandum he submitted on the review of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the National Assembly.
He said, in line with the principles of Democracy and Social Justice, the ideals of Freedom, Equality, and Justice and ultimately the need for the continued recognition of the right to Freedom of Association. He is also insisting that the provisions of section 225A Constitution must be expunged, and the provisions of section 228 be restored.
Omoragbo informed that the Constitution never set a ceiling to the numbers of political parties to be formed by the citizens, adding that no political party is funded by the government, and queried why INEC would deny Nigerians their right and freedom of Association.
He stressed the need to review and amend the provisions of section 225a of the constitution.
He said “Section 225A of the Constitution provides that the Independent National Electoral Commission shall have power to de-register a political party for: breach of any of the requirements for registration, failure to win at least twenty-five per cent of votes cast in one state of the Federation in a presidential election; or one Local Government of the State in a Governorship election, failure to win at least one ward in the Chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State House of Assembly election; or one seat in the Councillorship election.
The former House of Representatives candidate, Kosofe Federal Constituency, Lagos in 2003 and Oredo Federal Constituency Edo State in 2015 respectively, said it is imperative that the Nigerian state is founded on the principles of Democracy, Social Justice, ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice.
He added that Sections 13, 14(1) and 17(1) & (2) of the Constitution provide that it shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive, or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of the Constitution.
Refering to the Nigerian constitution, Omoragbon stated that the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State, based on the principles of democracy and social justice. “The State social order is founded on the ideals of fredom, eality and Justice. Every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law.
“Now, if the Nigerian State is founded on the principles of Democracy and Social Justice, ideals of freedom, Equality and Justice, it is the duty and responsibilities of the National Assembly to conform to, observe and apply these principles, then they must be guided by these principles in the exercise of its legislative functions, including amending the Constitution.”
Omoragbon stated that if “democracy” is defined as Government by the people, either directly or through representatives; “social justice” as Justice that conforms to a moral principle, such that all people are equal, then Democracy, has two elements, to wits: The right of direct participation in the government; and the right to participate in the government through elected representatives.”In enacting the provisions of section 225a of the Constitution, the National Assembly did not consider the fact that Nigeria is a state founded on the principles of Democracy and Social Justice and the ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice. ”
He maintained that the right to Freedom of Association, as enshrined in section 40 of the Constitution, is principally meant to protect ones’ Interests. “Interests are bound to vary with different people and groups And, the right to Freedom of Association is intertwined with the rights to Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Expression and Freedom from Discrimination for one’s political views or affiliation.”
He averred that the thoughts and views of a group of people of like minds on national issues, give rise to their opinion and ideologies, the basis upon which political parties are formed. “These rights are intrinsic and inalienable. It has been universally accepted that human rights stem from the attributes of man and are essential to the realization of human aspirations; adding that without human rights, life is meaningless and may be regarded as solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.
To buttress his points, Omoragbon quoted the preamble of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “…a recognition of the Inherent Dignity and of the Equal and Inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”
Thus, he said that the provisions of section 225a which empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission to de-register political parties for failure to win election are antithetical to the Constitution and international best practices, and must be expunged from the Constitution.
The National Deputy Chairman of South South stated that by virtue of the foregoing provisions of the Constitution, all Political parties are entitled to equal protection under the law, and are entitled to continue to exist without undue interference from the government and its agencies.
On the proposed remedies for breach of requirements for registration of political parties in place of section 225a of the constitution, he said Political parties, like other corporate entities, need to be regulated, and that the regulation must be kept within a clearly defined limit, to protect political parties against arbitrary powers of the ruling party and to ensure their continued existence.
Omoragbon informed that the Supreme Court, in the celebrated case of INEC V. MUSA (2003) N. W, L. R. PART 806, PAGE 72 AT PAGE 160 PARAGRAPH C – E, held, that while the National Assembly may make laws to provide for the registration, monitoring and regulations of political parties, it cannot, in the guise of the exercise of that power, decree conditions of eligibility of an association to function as a political party. “This was the whole essence of the provisions of section 228 of the Constitution, which the National Assembly, in its First Alteration Act of 2010, deleted from the Constitution.’
Also pointing at the provisions of the section, said the National Assembly may by law, provide for the punishment of any person involved in the management or control of a any political party found after due enquiry to have contravened any of the provisions of section 221, 225(3) and 227 of this Constitution and for the disqualification of any person from holding public office on the ground that he knowingly aids or abates a political party in contravening section 225(3) of this Constitution.
He insisted that the provisions were enacted to protect and enhance the principles of Democracy and Social Justice and the ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice, and ultimately the right to Freedom of Association. “Under the provisions, the punishment for breach of any of the requirements for registration of political parties was targeted at the officers of the party found to have aided and abated the breach, and not the political party itself. “