From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the deregistration of the 74 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for their inability to win any election after the 2019 general polls.
Justice Adamu Jauro who delivered the judgment of the apex court in a virtual court session on Friday, held that the deregistration of the affected political parties, including National Unity Party (NUP) was in compliance with the extant provisions of the Constitution and Electoral Act.
The judgment has to a large extent,
sealed the fate of the remaining 73 Parties many of whom have their appeals still pending in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The commission which had on February 6, 2020, announced the deregistration of the 74 political parties, hinged it on their failure to satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitutional Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
”The Commission has determined that eighteen (18) political parties have fulfilled the requirements for an existence based on Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as follows,” the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said.
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court had in it’s judgment, affirmed the Power of the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister political parties which failed to comply with the provisions of the law particularly Section 225 A of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo in his judgment delivered in the Suit filed by the National Unity Party, one of the 74 parties deregistered by the INEC in February, affirmed that the constitutional power of the electoral commission and the reasons given by the Commission for the deregistration of parties are valid, in conformity with the law, sacrosanct and could not be affected by the fact of anticipated Local govt elections by some states which dates were not fixed, certain or even ascertainable.
The Court, therefore, held that the deregistration of National Unity Party as a political party in Nigeria was lawfully done in exercise of vested constitutional powers of the INEC in accordance with Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution. The judgment conclusively terminated the legal existence of the Party and also all its other rights and obligations.
The Court also held that the Party failed to show that the exercise of its powers to deregister the Party was at variance with the law and also ultra vires its powers. Hence the court came to the conclusion that the Plaintiff (the Party) failed to prove its case and the issues for determination cannot be determined in its favour and the reliefs it sought could not be granted to it.
The Court of Appeal sitting at Abuja had on July 29, 2020, equally affirmed the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties in the country.
Justice Mohammed Baba Idris in his ruling upheld an earlier decision by the Federal High Court in Abuja which held that INEC was right to deregister National Unity Party (NUP) which was one of the 74 parties deregistered by INEC
With the ruling, all pending appeals by other deregistered parties are now an academic exercise.
Speaking on the judgment of the Supreme Court, the President of the Inter Party Advisory Council Dr. Leonard Nzenwa hailed the judgment and said the judgment had ended all speculations and this will aid INEC to now focus on critical issues in preparation for delivering credible, free and fair 2023 general election.
Also speaking, Election Observer groups, several Civil Society Organizations and the Council of Nigerian Ethnic Youth Leaders were unanimous in their applause for the Supreme Court saying the judgment has sanitized the electoral space and that the judgment is a victory for democracy and an end to one man political parties. They also called on the National Assembly to quickly amend the Constitution and Electoral Act to stop further registration of more political parties saying the 18 remaining parties should be enough to satisfy all political tendencies in the country.
The NUP had challenged their deregistration by INEC at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal where they lost in both Courts and the Supreme Court has by affirming the concurrent finding of the lower courts upheld not only the powers of INEC to deregister political parties but also that the process and procedure for the deregistration of the 74 political parties was in compliance with extant laws.