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Appeal Court reverses INEC’s deregistration of 22 parties

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Monday reversed the deregistration of 22 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The parties were among the 74 political parties de-registered in February 2020 by the Commission.

The electoral umpire claimed they did not meet the necessary constitutional requirements to continue to exist as political parties.

But in a unanimous judgment by a panel of the Court of Appeal, led by the court’s president, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, they held that INEC ignored due process in exercising its powers under Section 225(a) of the Constitution (as amended).

The Justices noted that not only were the affected political parties already in court before INEC exercised its constitutional powers to de-register a party, the electoral umpire failed to inform the parties why they could no longer exist.

The judgment was on an appeal marked: CA/A/ABJ/CV/507/2020 filed by the 22 political parties.

The affected parties were: Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), All Blending Party (ABP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Democratic People’s Congress (DPC), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN) and Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN).

Others are: New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGPA), Nigeria For Democracy (NFD), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Young Democratic Party (YDP), Re-Build Nigeria Party (RBNP), Save Nigeria Congress (SNC), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), United Democratic Party (UDP), United Patriots (UP) and We The People of Nigeria (WTPN).

They had sued last year after a warning of plan by INEC to exercise its power to de-register some parties, as contained in the 4th Alteration Act, which President Muhammadu Buhari assented to in 2018.

They also sought an interpretation of the novel provision in Section 225(a) in the amended Constitution. But, before the suit could be decided, INEC announced its de-registration of parties in February.

On June 11, 2020, Justice Anwuli Chiekere of the Federal High Court, Abuja had rejected the plaintiffs’ contention, dismissed the suit and upheld INEC’s powers to de-register political parties, a decision the 22 parties appealed at the Court of Appeal.

But the Court of Appeal held that the de-registration of the appellants was illegal because INEC failed to comply with due process of law.

The appellate court equally held that INEC’s acton was not in compliance with the provisions of Section 225(a) of the Constitution because it (INEC) did not indicate reasons for its decision to de-register the appellants.

The court noted that Section 40 of the Constitution entitles citizens to the freedom of association, and as such, the right conferred on a political party cannot be taken away except in accordance with the provisions of the law and due process.

It noted that the appellants were not challenging the legitimacy of the law/constitutional provision under which INEC claimed to have acted, by the process of their deregistration.

The Court of Appeal proceeded to set aside the June 11, 2020 judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja and ordered that the appellants should henceforth be listed as political parties in the country.

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