Though the implications and circumstances of de-registration of 31 registered political parties, in 2012, may not be different from Thursday’s similar exercise which affected 74 parties, Daily Trust on Sunday reports the variant the latest exercise generated in the polity.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), headed then by Professor Attahiru Jega on December 6, 2012, de-registered 28 political parties. They include Fresh Democratic Party, which was the brainchild of Pastor Chris Okotie and Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), which was started by lawyer and businessman, Tunji Braithwaite, in the Second Republic.
On Thursday in Abuja, the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced de-registration of 74 out of the 91 parties in the country. With the development, the country now has 18 political parties.
The 18 parties that survived
The 18 parties that have survived INEC’s hammer include Accord Party (A), Action Alliance (AA), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP), All Progressives Congress (APC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
Others are Labour Party (LP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Yakubu, however, said one of the political parties, Action Peoples Party (APP), has filed a suit in court and obtained an order restraining the commission from deregistering it, and so remained registered pending the determination of the case by the court.
He also said the 18th party, which was a new political party, Boot Party (BP), registered by court order after the 2019 general elections, will also continue to exist.
Yakubu said: “The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) vests in INEC the power to register and regulate the activities of political parties. You will also recall that in 2018, the constitution was amended.
“In addition to the extant provision for the registration of political parties, the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution (Section 225A) empowers the commission to deregister political parties.”
According to him, prior to the Fourth Alteration, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had provided for the deregistration of political parties and that based on that provision, the commission, between 2011 and 2013, deregistered 39 parties, but that several of the parties challenged the power of INEC to deregister them, particularly on the ground that the Electoral Act was inferior to the constitution and that deregistration infringed their fundamental rights under the same constitution.
He said subsequently, the courts ordered INEC to reinstate the parties and that it was for that reason that the National Assembly amended the constitution to empower the commission to deregister political parties on some grounds.
Reacting, the chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya (APC-Kano), said the target of his panel was to further “trim down the number of political parties in the country to a reasonable figure of either five or eight. Our plan is to make future elections cheaper than that of 2019. This is one of the ways to achieve that.”
Affected parties react
The National Chairman of National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr Yunusa Tanko, told Daily Trust on Sunday that INEC’s decision was hasty. Tanko, a former chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said the matter was already at a Federal High Court in Abuja, adding that INEC should reverse its decision.
Also, National Chairman of United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said he heard the news of deregistration of political parties but that no official letter was served on the UPP. Okorie, a former presidential candidate of the party, said they would consider teaming up with other de-registered political parties for a way forward.
The National Chairman of Democratic Peoples Congress (DPC) Rev. Olusegun Peters said that he was shocked at INEC’s decision to de-register parties. “We are all surprised because this issue is already in court. So, it is the court that should have the final say on this, not the commission. I’m surprised that they just woke up overnight to de-register this number of political parties,” Peters said.
Also, the National Deputy Chairman of the Action People’s Party (APP), Uche Nnadi said INEC did not inform the party of the deregistration. “We were not informed that we are going to face deregistration, rather INEC wrote us a letter that they are coming for verification,” he said.
The National Chairman of the All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Okey Chikwendum, described the INEC decision as “unconstitutional” and “an evidence of misplaced priority.”
Also, the Vice-Chairman, South-east of Fresh Democratic Party (FDP), Chizoba Onu, said she is not surprised at the electoral body’s decision as “the way democracy is practiced in Nigeria is not the way it is practiced all over the world.”
She insisted that FDP met all requirements “except the claim of not winning any political seat in the last general elections which should not be an actual yardstick.”
The National Secretary of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Fasogbon Akinboye, said the INEC does not have a genuine reason to arrive at such a decision, adding “We are not moneybags; we don’t buy votes. We would go to court.”
National Secretary, All Blending Party (ABP), George Moses, said his party will surely fight the INEC decision.
Also, the acting National Chairman of Kowa Party, Mark Adebayo, said, “What INEC has done is to tell Nigerians that if you don’t have enough means for vote-buying and you cannot compromise the electoral process, you cannot survive within the political environment of Nigeria.”
National Chairman of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ARP), Tope Fasua, stated, “As much as INEC is used to being sued and now I believe it is all a big joke, we shall explore the legal option no matter how feeble it may seem. We shall do that, jointly and severally. This is sheer injustice, impunity, reckless and a stab in the heart of honest young and not-so-young Nigerians who are tired of playing third class citizens in their own country, watching by the sidelines and arguing away on social media as their country pines away.”
Also, the National Chairman of the United Patriots (UP), Chukwudi Ezeobika, said INEC’s decision to de-register the party is an affront to the judiciary. He expressed surprise that despite being aware that the court had a date fixed for the ruling on the matter, INEC still went ahead to de-register 74 political parties.
The National Chairman of the Mass Action Joint Alliance Party (MAJA), Chief Chika Ibeneme, said Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the umbrella organization of registered political parties, has taken INEC to court on the issue and that it was subjudice for INEC to de-register the political parties.
The National Chairman of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, said the party’s deregistration was a rude shock.
ADP, APC react
Meanwhile, the Action Democratic Party (ADP), one of the 18 recognized parties, said it remained the only credible alternative political party to the two existing dominant parties in Nigeria.
It called on the members of the newly deregistered parties “to join in its quest to oust the two dominant parties comes 2023.
“The party charged all leaders and members of the need to double their efforts in attracting more members and prominent Nigerians, and ensure that the party is not just there to provide alternative but to take charge of leadership at the center come 2023…,” the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Adelaja Adeoye, said in a statement.
Reacting to the development, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress (APC), Yekini Nabena, canvassed a two-party system for the country.
He argued that the decision by the electoral umpire would pave the way for serious-minded political parties to play active roles in the political process of the country.
Reacting to the development, an Abuja-based lawyer E.M.D. Umukoro said the action of INEC did not preclude the members of the de-registered political parties from rejoining other political parties, or regrouping to form a bigger political party.
Also, Hamid Ajibola Jimoh Esq, said it depended on the rules set by INEC and the reasons adduced by the electoral umpire to arrive at the action.
Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, (SAN) described the deregistration of the political parties as an illegality.
Adegboruwa said, “I believe that there is no power in the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister parties, once registered. Under the freedom of association, in the constitution, once that registration has been done, it is not conditional upon winning or losing election. That Section 40 of the Constitution has been tested by (the late) Chief Gani Fewehinmi up to the Supreme Court, when the party of Balarabe Musa was deregistered by INEC.”