Appeal Court Strips INEC Of Power To Deregister Parties | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Appeal Court Strips INEC Of Power To Deregister Parties

Posted: Jul 24, 2015 at 9:35 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Tunde Opeseitan, Lagos

The Court of Appeal, ?Lagos, on Friday, July 24, 2015, quashed Section 78(7) (ii) of Electoral Act 2010, which empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties that fail to win the presidential, governorship election or at least a seat in the National Assembly or state House of Assembly.

The court, in its judgment, held that the said section was inconsistent with the Constitution, as there was nowhere in the Constitution where it was expressly stated that a political party must win an election to operate as a party.

The court also upturned the judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagos, which, in 2013, upheld the power of INEC to de-register the National Conscience Party (NCP).

The NCP was founded by the late legal icon, Gani Fawehinmi.

Justice Okon Abang had in his judgment in 2013 affirmed the constitutionality of Section 78(7) (ii) of Electoral Act 2010, which makes it mandatory for political parties to win an election to be accorded recognition by INEC. ?

The judge held that the section of the Electoral Act was not in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right Enforcement and Ratification Act, as contended by the plaintiffs.

“There is nothing unconstitutional about Section 78(7) (ii) Electoral Act. Put differently, Section 78(7)(ii) of the Electoral Act is constitutional,” Abang held.

The judge upheld the argument by INEC that winning an election was an obligation needed to be fulfilled before a political party could be recognised by INEC.

Abang had added that the right to form and join a political party as stated in Section 40 of the Constitution was not an absolute right.

He also held that de-registration of political parties was part of regulatory roles conferred on the commission by a clause in the Section 40 of the Constitution.

In dismissing the NCP’s case, the judge also ordered the plaintiffs to pay N15,000 as cost to each of INEC and the National Assembly, who were both defendants in the case.

Not satisfied with Abang’s decision, NCP, through its lawyer, Marcus Eyarhoro, filed a notice of appeal, barely 24 hours after the judgment was delivered.

Eyarhoro, in his notice of appeal, contended that Abang erred in law for refusing to invalidate section 78(7)(ii) of Electoral Act 2010.

In the judgment delivered on Friday, two years after the appeal, the appellate court set aside Abang’s decision and allowed the NCP’s appeal.