The Federal High Court in Abuja has affirmed the Power of the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister political parties which failed to comply with the provisions of the law particularly Section 225 A of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo in a landmark judgment delivered in the Suit filed by the National Unity Party, one of the 74 parties deregistered by the INEC in February affirmed that the constitutional power of the electoral commission and the reasons given by the Commission for the deregistration of parties are valid, in conformity with the law, sacrosanct and could not be affected by the fact of anticipated Local govt elections by some states which dates were not fixed, certain or even ascertainable.
The Court, therefore, held that the deregistration of National Unity Party as a political party in Nigeria was lawfully done in exercise of vested constitutional powers of the INEC in accordance with Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution. The judgment conclusively terminated the legal existence of the Party and also all its other rights and obligations.
The Court also held that the Party failed to show that the exercise of its powers to deregister the Party was at variance with the law and also ultra vires its powers. Hence the court came to the conclusion that the Plaintiff (the Party) failed to prove its case and the issues for determination cannot be determined in its favour and the reliefs it sought could not be granted to it.
The Court in the landmark Judgment quashed the argument of the NUP Party which is the same legal argument by the 74 deregistered parties that until all Local Govt elections in the country are held instead of only FCT Local elections that the Constitution empowers INEC to conduct, that INEC cannot deregister them. Before now, the deregistration controversy has raged between the electoral commission and the 74 Parties, with INEC holding the position that after fulfilling their constitutional roles of conducting Presidential, Federal and State Legislative, Governorship and FCT Council elections that the stage was set for deregistration of parties which didn’t win any position as required by the Constitution, a position that the Court has now upheld thereby dimming the hope of any of the 74 parties regaining their legal right to exit.
By this judgment, only 18 political parties will be participating in the Edo and Ondo State Governorship elections scheduled to hold on September 19, 2020, and October 10, 2020. This is as lawyers who were spoken to by our correspondent are of the unanimous opinion that with the finding of the Court in the judgment, it would be extremely impossible for another high Court to find otherwise since from the deregistration template, basically the same issues were raised by INEC as grounds for the action they took to deregister the political parties.
The lawyer says that though a high court is not bound to follow the judgment of a Court of coordinate jurisdiction as it would have followed that of the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, the judgment would be persuasive and another High Court judge would need to find a marked difference before it can deviate from the earlier judgment.
While reacting to the ruling, the Acting President of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC and AAC Party Chairman, Dr Leonard Nzenwa said that until upturned on appeal, the judgment of the Court in the position of the law and only the 18 political parties recognized by INEC will participate in the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections and that the Parties are ready for the elections.