The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister political parties.
The apex court made the pronouncement in a judgment dismissing an appeal filed by one of the 74 political parties deregistered by INEC in February 2020.
The appellant, the National Unity Party (NUP), had filed its case to challenge the earlier July 29, 2020 verdict of the Court of Appeal upholding its deregistration by the electoral body.
A member of the apex court’s panel, Chima Nweze, who delivered the lead judgment on Friday, ruled that INEC rightly exercised its powers conferred on it by the Nigerian constitution in deregistering the party last year.
Still one hurdle to cross
The judgment delivered on Friday is not yet a total validation of the deregistration of all the 74 political parties announced in February 2020.
This is because there is still a more contentious appeal concerning 22 of the total 74 parties still pending at the Supreme Court.
The 22 political parties had defeated INEC at the Court of Appeal in Abuja which had, in a judgment delivered on August 10, 2020, ordered INEC to relist them.
INEC subsequently appealed against the judgment, and the appeal by the commission is still pending before the apex court.
The Court of Appeal in the judgment being contested by the electoral body affirmed the commission’s power to deregister political parties but ruled that INEC went about the deregistration of the 22 parties “in utmost contempt and disregard for the due process of law and the court.”
The appeal by INEC had yet to be heard before the ongoing judiciary workers’ strike began on April 6.
Section 225(a) of the Nigerian Constitution, which came into effect with the signing of the amendment to the constitution in 2018, empowers INEC to deregister any political party on the grounds of poor electoral performance.
It provides specifically that a party is liable for deregistration if it fails to win at least 25 per cent of votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election, or one local government of the state in governorship election, or failure to win at least one ward in chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State House of Assembly election or one seat in the councillorship election.
More details later
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