A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, dismissed the applications filed by the 32 deregistered political parties against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Justice Anwuli Chikere, in her judgment, held that the plaintiffs failed to prove their case that the power of the electoral umpire to deregister them could not be exercisable.
INEC had, on Feb. 6, deregistered 74 political parties, leaving 18 others.
However, in a motion on notice with suit number: FHC//ABJ/ CS/444/19 between Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and 32 others Vs. Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and INEC (1st and 2nd respondents respectively) the applicants approached the court for restraining order.
Although 33 political parties filed the matter in court, two of the parties; Labour Party (LP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC) were later dropped from the suit because the parties were not deregistered by INEC.
The 31 political parties, in the suit filed by their counsel, on Oct. 30, 2019 and served on INEC on Oct. 31, 2019, after getting the hint about INEC’s plan to deregister them, had prayed the court for “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from deregistering the plaintiffs, or any political party for that matter, pending the determination of this suit.
“And for such further order(s) as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”
They sought for the order on the grounds that “the plaintiffs as registered political parties have been carrying out their constitutional/statutory duties and functions without any funding from government.
“The plaintiffs have been canvassing for votes and nominating candidates for elections into electoral constituencies in Nigeria.”
On June 3, the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) had prayed the court to be joined in the suit, making the total number of the deregistered parties to be 32.
On its part, INEC, through its lawyer, Alhassan Umar, SAN, argued that it exercised the power in according with Section 225(a), (b) and (c) of the Nigerian Constitution.
It stated further that the parties failed to meet the guidelines as stipulated by the constitution as they had failed to win a seat in all the elections conducted in the country whether presidential, governorship, chairmanship or counsellorship poll.
INEC averred that Section 225(a) clearly spelt out the grounds for deregistration of political parties in the country.
Delivering the judgment on Thursday, Justice Chikere said it was clear from paragraph 36 of the plaintiffs’ application that they have participated in various elections in the country but could neither show any evidence of winning an election nor attached certificates of returns from INEC to show the seat they won.
She said the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient material facts for the court to rule in their favour.
“This court cannot manufacture evidence to advance the course of the plaintiffs. The law is that he who asserts must prove,” the judge held, quoting Section 131 of the Evidence Act.
According to the judge, Section 132 of the Evidence Act states that the burden is on him who asserts.
She said the plaintiffs were expected to succeed on the strength of their case and not on the weakness of the defence.
Justice Chikere said Section 225 (a), (b) and (c) of the amended 1999 Constitution stated that “INEC shall have power to deregister a political party for bridge of any of the requirements for registration; failure to win at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in one state of the nation in a presidential election, one local government of a state in a governorship election and failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election, one seat in national or state house of assembly election and one seat in counsellorship election.”
According to the judge, the section is very clear and unambiguous.
She noted that the Supreme Court had previously decided on a related case, pointing out that “it is a settled law that lower courts are bound by the previous decisions of appellant courts in construction of statutory provisions .”
Justice Chikere, therefore, affirmed the power of the INEC to deregister the 32 political parties for non compliance with the provisions of the constitution.
It would be recalled that Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, had also ruled in favour of INEC against the National Unity Party (NUP) and Hope Democratic Party (HDP).
The affected parties are: Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP), All Blending Party (ABP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Democratic People’s Congress (DPC), Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Green Party of Nigeria (GPN).
Also on the list are Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN) and National Interest Party (NIP).
Others are the Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP), People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Red-build Nigeria Party (RBNP).
Others are Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP), United Democratic Party (UDP), United Patriot (UP), We The People Nigeria (WTPN), Young Democratic Party (YDP), Save Nigeria Congress (SNC), Change Advocacy Party (CAP), Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and All Grassroots Alliance (AGA).
Alliance of Social Democrats (ASD), Democratic Alternative (DA), New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGP), Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Nigeria For Democracy (NFD) and Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN), also made the list. (NAN)