By G9ija

Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has again held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has powers to deregister political parties.

Justice Chikere gave the ruling yesterday in Abuja while delivering judgment in a suit by 32 political parties challenging their deregistration by INEC.

INEC, on February 6, had deregistered 74 political parties for failing to win any seat in the last general election.
Dissatisfied, some 32 political parties had approached the court to challenge the decision.

In a motion on notice with suit number: FHC//ABJ/ CS/444/19 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and 32 others Vs. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and INEC (1st and 2nd respondents respectively), the applicants prayed the court for an order restraining INEC from removing their names from the list of registered political parties.

Although 33 political parties filed the matter in court, two of the parties, Labour Party (LP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC), were later dropped from the suit because INEC did not deregister them.

On June 3, the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) had prayed the court to be joined in the suit, making the total number of the de-registered parties to be 32.

Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Chikere, however, reaffirmed the powers of the INEC to deregister political parties.
The court held that Section 225(a) of the constitution gives INEC the powers to deregister parties that failed to comply with the provisions of the constitution.

It also held that the plaintiffs failed to prove their case and subsequently dismissed the suit.

According to the judge, the parties failed to state sufficient facts to support their claims while stating that where a provision of the law is unambiguous, it ought to be given its simple interpretation, hence, Section 225(a) of Constitution is clear and unambiguous and should be interpreted in support of the deregisteration.

The court also vacated an earlier injunction granted to the parties and dismissed their suit in its entirety.

The parties had filed their suit last year to restrain INEC from deregistering them when they got to know about the plans of the commission.

Earlier, the judge in February had issued an order restraining INEC from acting on the notice deregistering the 32 political parties, pending the determination of the suit.

With this judgment, it now brings to 36, the number of political parties that the court has affirmed their deregistration.
With the judgment, the fate of the remaining deregistered parties hang in the balance.

For now, only 18 political parties not deregistered are the lawfully recognised political parties in Nigeria.

Some of the affected 32 political parties are, Advanced Congress of Democrats, Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party, All Blending Party, All Grand Alliance Party, Better Nigeria Progressive Party, Democratic People’s Congress, Freedom and Justice Party, and Green Party of Nigeria.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, had also ruled in favour of INEC against the National Unity Party (NUP) and Hope Democratic Party (HDP).

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