The Federal High Court in Abuja has held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) possesses the power to deregister political parties.
In a judgment on Friday, Justice Taiwo Taiwo said INEC is empowered under the constitution to de-register political parties that failed to meet provisions of Section 225(a) of the constitution.
The judgment was delivered following a suit filed by Hope Democratic Party (HDP) which queried the recent decision by INEC to deregister it and some other political parties.
This is a second judgement in relation to INEC’s power to deregister parties. Justice Taiwo had, in May, also ruled in favour of INEC after the National Unity Party (NUP) asked the court to declare that INEC had no power under section 225A of the constitution “to de-register the plaintiff as a political party or any other political party.
On February 6, 2020, INEC took the nation by surprise by deregistering 74 out of the 91 registered parties that participated in the 2019 general elections. Only 18 parties are currently left on INEC’s register.
The commission said its decision followed a comparative review and court-ordered re-run elections arising from litigations on political parties in the last elections.
It said the political parties performed poorly and failed to win at least one political seat in the last general elections. INEC also said the parties breached the requirement for registration of political parties under section 225 of the Nigerian constitution.
In defence, some of the affected parties kicked against INEC’s action, insisting that it acted illegally.
Separate suits were thus filed in court by the aggrieved parties.
On Friday, Justice Taiwo dismissed the HDP’s suit, saying the party provided no evidence that it met the criteria for it not to be de-registered.
The judge said HDP fell short of the requirements under Section 225(a) of the constitution, and that the party also failed to convince the court that INEC’s decision to de-register it, as a political party, was unlawful.
He said since it is a legal principle that he who asserts must prove, the plaintiff was under the obligation to prove that INEC acted unconstitutionally by de-registering it as a political party.
He noted that the plaintiff did not only fail to prove its case, “the case of the plaintiff is weak and as such, it cannot be granted the reliefs sought.
“The plaintiff has the onus to prove its case, but has failed to show to the court that it met the requirements of Section 225(a) of the Constitution.
“The plaintiff ought to give particulars of malice when it alleged that it was de-registered out of malice. The court is not a father Christmas to grant reliefs that have not been sought.”