The debate around the delisting of non-performance of some political parties sailed through as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Thursday announced deregistration of 74 political parties for their inability to fulfil the law establishing them.
INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu announced this at a press briefing in Abuja, saying, with the de-registration; only 18 parties are now in existence.
INEC also said the governorship election in Edo state has been fixed for Saturday, 20 September, 2020 while similar exercise holds in Ondo state Saturday, 10th October, 2020.
This followed the end of the governors’ tenures for Edo on 12th November, 2020 and 24th February, 2021 for Ondo.
Announcing its decision on the political parties, Professor Yakubu listed the surviving parties to include Accord Party (AP), 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).
The rest 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 Democratic Party (YDP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Action Peoples Party (APP) and the newly registered Boot Party.
It said the All Peoples Party (APP) filed a suit in court and obtained an order restraining the commission from deregistering it, saying the party remains registered pending the determination of the case in court.
He also stated that the new political party, Boot Party, registered by court order after the 2019 general elections would also continue to exist.
While explaining reasons for the parties’ de-registration, the INEC chairman said: “You will recall that prior to the 2019 general election, Nigeria had 91 political parties. One more party was registered by court order after the election, making a total of 92 political parties. 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.
“Prior to the Fourth Alteration, the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had provided for the deregistration of political parties. Based on this provision, the Commission, between 2011 and 2013, deregistered 39 political parties.
“However, several of the parties challenged the power of INEC to deregister them, particularly on the ground that the Electoral Act is inferior to the Constitution and that deregistration infringed their fundamental rights under the same Constitution. Subsequently, the courts ordered the Commission to reinstate the parties. It was for this reason that the National Assembly amended the Constitution to empower the Commission to deregister political parties on the following grounds:
“Breach of any of the requirements for registration as a political party.
“Failure to win at least 25% of the votes cast in one State of the Federation in a Presidential election or 25% of the votes cast in one Local Government Area of a State in a Governorship election.
“Failure to win at least one ward in a Chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State Assembly election or one seat in a Councillorship election.
“In order to implement the provision of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution, the Commission carried out an assessment of political parties to determine compliance with the requirements for their registration. Similarly, following the conclusion of the 2019 general election, including court-ordered re-run elections arising from litigations, the Commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections.
“In addition, they were also assessed on the basis of their performance in the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which coincided with the 2019 general election. It should be noted that the FCT is the only part of the country where INEC is empowered by the Constitution to conduct Local Government elections.”
He further said: “Seventy-five (75) political parties did not satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution. However, one of the political parties, the Action Peoples Party (APP), filed a suit in court and obtained an order restraining the Commission from deregistering it. Consequently, the party remains registered pending the determination of the case by the court.”
On the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, the INEC chairman said: “The tenure of the Governors of Edo and Ondo States will end on 12th November, 2020 and 24th February, 2021 respectively. Pursuant to the provisions of Section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 25(8) of the Electoral Act 2010, elections cannot hold earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of an incumbent Governor. Accordingly, the Commission has fixed Saturday 19th September 2020 as the date for the governorship election in Edo state and Saturday 10th October 2020 for Ondo State”.
The INEC chairman also announced the forthcoming bye elections in three constituencies.
“Similarly, the Commission is conducting bye-elections in three (3) constituencies as a result of the deaths of some serving members of the National and State Assemblies. The Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives has declared vacancy in Magama/Rijau Federal Constituency of Niger State. Similarly, the Honourable Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly has declared a vacancy in Patigi State Constituency while the Speaker of the Sokoto State House of Assembly has declared the Kebbe State Constituency vacant. These bye-elections will hold simultaneously in the three (3) States of the Federation on Saturday 14th March 2020, /2 the commission further said.
“On this note, let me reiterate the resolve the Commission to stand firm against acts capable of disrupting the elections. As we are all aware, election is a process. However, the process does not begin and end with Election Day activities.
“The conduct of party primaries, nomination of candidates, electioneering campaigns and the submission of the list of polling agents are also essential to the electoral process. Above all, good behaviour by all officials and actors involved is crucial for success.
“I wish to remind all parties and candidates that violence during party primaries and electioneering campaigns, the snatching of election materials or the deployment of thugs against INEC officials, observers, the media and unarmed security personnel at polling units are acts punishable under our electoral laws.
“Already, the political atmosphere in a particular state is charged. No one should regard the release of the timetable for the elections as a signal to further escalate tension or a call to commence the recruitment of goons and arming of thugs and hoodlums,” Yakubu also stated
New polling units for 2023:
In a related development, INEC has announced plans to create more units across the country before the 2023 general elections.
The decision came five years after its botched attempt to create additional 30,027 polling units.
INEC Chairman Professor Yakubu dropped the hint Thursday in Abuja when he received Geographic Information System (GIS) support equipment donated by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
He said Nigeria was currently underserved with its 119,973 polling units and over 57,000 voting points.
The electoral umpire had in August 2014 proposed to create additional 30,027 polling units, with the northern region getting 21, 615 while the southern region would make do with 8, 412 units.
The development pitched both regions against each other forcing INEC to later jettison the plan.
However, at a brief ceremony Thursday, the INEC chairman appreciated the support of ECES and acknowledged that the equipment would assist the commission in the area of delimitation of constituencies which is one of the constitutional responsibilities of INEC.
He said; “Your assistance will be great in addition to what we have been trying to do. Already, the commission is considering the possibility of creating additional polling units before the 2023 general elections.
“It is a huge country and the population is rising and each time myself and the commissioners travel around the country and we see new settlements emerging, we wonder how would these new settlements be served by polling units so that Nigerians don’t have to travel long distances in order to vote on election day.”
INEC right -Lawyer
But while reacting on the legality of having to deregister the 74 political parties, a senior lawyer and 1st Assistant Secretary Nigerian Bar Association, Olatunji Salawu said it was proper as it was not done in fiat.
Salawu said INEC has power to deregister any political party that failed to meet certain requirements.
He said: “INEC action was in the right direction because they rely on the electoral Act in carrying out such action.
“Don’t also forget that INEC was a creation of the law and bound by the law. So, it is empowered to deregister and did not act impromptu.
“If any party fall shorts of INEC minimum requirements, then they have right to deregister just as the Corporate Affairs Commission also has right to deregister a company.”
ADP beckons on sacked political parties
Meanwhile, the Action Democratic Party (ADP) has beckoned on the deregistered political parties, saying it remained the only credible alternative to the two existing dominant parties in Nigeria.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Adelaja Adeoye, the ADP, which was one of those that survived the exercise, said it participated in the verification exercise, which showed that it was not just a mere party on paper “but very strong at the grassroots, across the 774 local government in the country.”
Adeoye charged all leaders and members of ADP 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, because it has what it takes to produce the next President and governors in all the states.”
Adeoye specifically called on members and leaders of the deregistered parties to join ADP in their various wards across the country, stating that the party is a home for all.
“At this time, all those in the defunct and delisted parties must not feel like they have no place to go to because ADP is the party they should consider and they will be well treated when they join,” he said.
Commending the move however, Chairman Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya described the electoral body’s action as effort towards sanitising the nation’s political terrain.
The former Kano state governor called on Nigerians to support the commission and its leadership in order to conduct credible elections.
It would be recalled that the Kano South federal lawmaker has consistently advised INEC to sanitise the commission by downsizing the number of registered parties in country to conform to international standards.
Senator Gaya said that printing bogus voter’s materials makes the commission’s materials and activities untidy adding that downsizing the parties would make election materials fanciful and a sight to behold.