The Appeal Court Monday set aside the judgment of a federal high court in Abuja which held that the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has the power to deregister political parties.

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Justice Anwuli Chikere, a federal high court in Abuja had on June 11 in a judgment 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.

No fewer than 32 political parties had approached the high court seeking order to set aside the decision of INEC to deregister 74 political parties in the country that failed to make constitutional requirements to function as political party.

However, the court refused the prayers of the plaintiffs and upheld the constitutional powers of INEC to deregister political parties.

In January this year, also Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the same court in Abuja had in two separate judgments upheld the same powers of INEC.

Justice Taiwo affirmed the deregistration of the National Unity Party and the Hope Democratic Party by the electoral commission.

Not satisfied with the judgment, the Advance Congress of Democrats and the Progressive People Alliance, which were among the 74 political parties that deregistered on February 6, 2020, approached the appellate court to set aside the decision of the trial court.
However, in a judgment on Monday, which was prepared by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem and was delivered Justice Sodipe Lokulo, the Appeal Court held that the deregistration of the political parties in February this year was illegal.

The court held that INEC failed to follow due process in deregistering the parties.
The court also held that INEC’s action failed to adhere to section 225(a) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

The court added that INEC’s failure to adduce reasons for the deregistration made the deregistration illegal.

The electoral commission in its submission, had told the court that the deregistered parties breached sections as required by the constitution to win at least 25% of votes cast in one state of the federation during the last presidential election.

The court held that citizens are entitled to freedom of association and as such the right conferred on a parties can’t be taken away as enshrined in Section 40 of the constitution except through due process.

The court further held that the parties are challenging the process of their deregistration and not the sct.

The court further ordered that the appellants should be listed as registered political parties in the country.

Source: The Street Journal

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