INEC said it would appeal the judgement.
The Commission had deregistered FDP and 27 others last year.
Dissatisfied by the Commission’s action, FDP, which presented a Lagos based clergyman, Chris Okotie, as its presidential candidate in previous elections, went to court to reverse its deregistration.
Delivering judgement on the matter, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that INEC’s action was unconstitutional because it exercised its power to deregister the party without giving it a fair hearing in accordance with the 1999 Constitution (amended).
He also voided the provision of Section 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act (2010), saying it is inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution. The section empowers INEC to deregister any party that does not have a seat either in the National Assembly of State House of Assembly.
The judge also held that the powers to deregister parties, granted to INEC in Section 78(7)(ii) of the Electoral Act assumes quasi-judicial nature when it comes to deregistering parties, and must not be exercised without giving the party to be deregistered a fair hearing.
He said, “The first plaintiff (FDP) was entitled to be heard by the first defendant (INEC) before taking the decision to deregister it.”
Although he upheld the National Assembly’s power to make laws as it relates to its enactment of the Electoral Act 2011, Mr. Kolawole held that Paragraph 2 subsection 7 of section 78 of the Electoral Act was inconsistent with the Constitution.
He described the provision, as enacted by the National Assembly, as “a legislative mischief that must be addressed.”
According to him, Nigeria’s electoral process was still immature and therefore what should be of paramount concern was guaranteeing credible elections.
The judge granted nine out of the 10 prayers sought by the plaintiffs, among which was that the electoral body breached sections 14, 15(2) and (3) and 17 of the Constitution in exercising its powers to deregister parties.
He also said that INEC, as established under section 153 of the Constitution, could not deregister parties without recourse to sections 221-229 of the Constitution.
Mr. Kolawole refused to grant the plaintiffs’ prayer for N10millon cost, but instead he enjoined them to make contribution to the development of the democratic culture.
The implication of the judgement is that the other 27 parties deregistered by INEC, alongside FDP, last year would begin to operate again as registered political parties.
However, reacting to the judgement, Counsel to INEC, Ibrahim Bawa, said the commission would appeal the judgment because of the previous judgments of the Federal High Court on the matter, which he said were contradictory to the latest one.
One of the judgements, according to him, was delivered by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Lagos on a similar suit brought by the National Conscience Party, NCP.
Mr. Abang had upheld the Commission’s powers to deregister parties, insisting that he did not see anything wrong in the provision of Section 78(7) (ii) of the Electoral Act.
Kayode Idowu, spokesman of the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Commission was set to appeal the judgement.
“INEC is appealing the latest judgement. Notice that there are three previous judgements affirming the correctness of INEC’s action. This fourth judgment is different and will be appealed,” Mr. Idowu said.