Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, on Friday, February 7, 2020, said the Nigerian constitution empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to deregister political parties under certain conditions.
He, however, said the deregistration of 74 out of the existing 102 political parties by INEC on Thursday was premature.
Ninety-one political parties participated in the 2019 general elections, with 73 of them fielding presidential candidates.
Many held the view that having over a hundred political parties makes the conduct of elections unwieldy.
INEC, presumably on this account, announced the deregistration of 74 out the political parties, leaving only 28.
Some of the affected political parties have vowed to challenge their deregistration in court, contending that it was illegal.
When contacted for his view by Punch, Falana said INEC had the constitutional power to deregister political parties.
He pointed out Section 225A of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (with the First, Second, Third and Fourth Alterations), which empowered INEC to deregister political parties for various reasons.
The SAN explained that the constitution was amended in 2017 to empower INEC to deregister political parties but it was just being implemented now.
Section 225A states, “The Independent National Electoral Commission shall have power to de-register a political party for breach of any of the requirements for registration;
“Failure to win at least twenty-five percent of votes cast in one State of the Federation in a Presidential election or one Local Government of the State in a Governorship election;
“Failure to win at least one ward in the Chairmanship election, one seat in the National or State House of Assembly election or one seat in the Councillorship election.”
Falana, however, said INEC’s decision to delist 74 parties on Thursday was premature.
He said, “In deregistering the 74 political parties, INEC has relied on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No 9) Act, 2017 enacted on May 4, 2017, which amended section 222 of the 1999 Constitution. The amendment empowers INEC to de-register political parties that fail to win any seat in local and national elections.
“INEC must go the whole hog by complying with section 222 of the Constitution which states that political parties that fail to render accounts of their detailed annual statement and analysis of their sources of funds and other assets with similar statements of expenditure.
“INEC must apply the law with equal force to the remaining political parties.
“LG elections have not been held in 13 states. Since some of the political parties may still win LG elections the law is not ripe for implementation.
“Section 224 says the programmes and manifestoes of political parties shall conform with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy. The programmes and manifestoes of APC and PDP are completely at variance with chapter 2 of the Constitution. So why have there not been implementation?”