When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday announced the deregistration of 74 registered political parties out of the 92 parties in the country, it came as a rude shock to many Nigerians who are not well informed about the rules guiding political parties registration and operation in the country. But to those who are versed in the workings of INEC with regards to its relationship with political party operation, it was an action well anticipated.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had while announcing the de-registration at a press briefing in Abuja, said the parties were deregistered for their inability to meet requirements for their continued existence based on Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
He recalled that prior to the 2019 general election, Nigeria had 91 political parties while one more party was registered by court order after the election, making a total of 92 political parties.
Yakubu said that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) vests in INEC, the power to register and regulate activities of political parties.
Yakubu said that because the Electoral Act as amended by the National Assembly that empowers it to register political parties also empowers it to deregister those that do not fulfill conditions to continue to exist as political parties, “74 political parties are hereby deregistered. With this development, Nigeria now has 18 registered political parties.”
This action by INEC however did not go down with the advisory body of registered political parties, the Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), which has described the deregistration of the political parties as unconstitutional and called on the electoral umpire to reverse its decision immediately.
The IPAC, in a statement issued by its National Legal Adviser, Ezeobika Chukwudi Esq, in Abuja, urged the INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu, to reverse the decision to avoid infringing on the rights of political parties as guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
IPAC said part of the reason it is calling for a review of the decision is because it is aware of an action instituted at the Federal High Court by 33 political parties, who are members of the Council in Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/444/2019 filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja seeking amongst other things, an Order restraining the INEC from deregistering concerned political parties pending the determination of the suit.
They added that the Federal High Court, upon hearing the Motion for an Interlocutory Injunction on the 23rd of January, 2020, adjourned for ruling on February 17, 2020.
It therefore described the action of INEC as reprehensible and an affront on the judiciary, an abuse of the Court Process and a conscious disregard for the Rule of law.
Besides IPAC, one of the affected political parties, the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, has also faulted the action of INEC, saying the action of the electoral umpire was illegal as it contravened the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Though the position taken by the concerned bodies are done within their right in law, it is our considered opinion that what INEC did the right thing and the steps so far taken are in the right direction.
There is no nation that can uphold its electoral process without first taking conscious step to check the undue proliferation of political parties like is witnessed in Nigeria with all wanting to be on the national ballot.
The actions of INEC, we believe, calls for commendation rather than vilification by informed political stakeholders, whose interest should be to operate within a sane and well sanitised political environment.
It is also our considered view that though the action of the electoral umpire is commendable, it is however not enough, as they still need to do more in further pruning down the number of political parties to a more manageable number to make it easier for electorate many of whom are not well lettered to easily navigate to system at elections.