… Endorses N1m registration fees
A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately register the Socialist Party of Nigeria(SPN) as a political party.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole also ordered the INEC to accord the SPN all privileges of a political party including the issuance of a Certificate of Registration within 30 days.
Members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria had filed the suit, challenging the propriety INEC’s refusal to register it.
In his judgment on the matter, Justice Kolawole held that by virtue of section 78(4) of the Electoral Act 2010, the SPN having met all the requirements under the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 “is deemed registered as a political party in Nigeria”.
The judge further ordered that , “The defendant (INEC) is hereby ordered to register the plaintiffs forthwith as a political party and shall within 30 days thereof issue them with certificate of registration as a political party without much ado and they shall be registered as a Socialist Party of Nigeria. This shall be the judgment of the court.”
The plaintiffs: Segun Sango, Chinedu Bosah, Mikaliu Mohammed, Emmanuel Adikwu, Agbebire Marcellus and Nuhu Zira have filed the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/630/2014 on behalf of SPN and contended that INEC refusal to register it was unlawful.
The plaintiffs also claimed that they had fulfilled all the statutory conditions, including the payment of administration fee of N1million, establishment of the national headquarters in Abuja and constituting a National Executive Committee with members from at least 24 states and Abuja.
But INEC was said to have in a letter dated August 12, 2014, which was its response to the application by SPN for registration as a political party, stated that the SPN’s “registration is terminated” on the basis of the purported failure of the SPN to allow for the verification of its submitted claims.
The SPN had accused the commission of terminating the registration process having failed to process the application of SPN within 30 days as stipulated by Section 78 (3 and 4) of Electoral Act 2010.
Justice Kolawole agreed with the plaintiffs in its judgment that INEC mismanaged the processing of SPN’s application.
The judge also held that by virtue of the provision of section 78 (2),(3), and (4) of the Electoral Act when read and construed communally, INEC was bound to abide by the timeline set in the Act.
Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in INEC Vs Musa relied upon by parties, Justice Kolawole noted that INEC “ is not permitted to exercise its statutory powers according to the predilection and the whims of its chairman and/or principal management officers in the discharge of its duties of political party registration and monitoring”.
The judge also held that “by the provision of section 221 of the Constitution 1999 (as amended), political parties remain the only recognised electoral vehicle by which Nigerians can aspire to any of the elective offices created by the Constitution in order to constitute machinery of government.
“It is my view that the judgment of this court needs not be made any longer than to say that the plaintiff’s question A is answered in the affirmative.
“And “question B is answered in the affirmative having regard to the conclusion which I have reached that the defendant mismanaged the plaintiff’s application for registration as political party and began its first step by the wrong endorsement made by P. A Enuobi on June 12, 2014 at the foot of Exhibit SS06 being the plaintiff’s application for registration.”
The judge however rejected three other prayers of the defendant including the one asking the court to declare as unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect section 78(3) of the Electoral Act which prescribes payment of N1m by an association that applies for registration as being in conflict withthe relevant provisions of Sections 222-229 of the Constitution.
The judge also declined to order the refund of the N1m to the SPN and also rejected the request for N1m as cost of prosecuting the case from INEC.
The judge noted that the payment of N1m was necessary so that only serious-minded and genuine associations would approach INEC to be registered as a political party.
Andrew Orolua, Abuja