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INEC’s Deregistration of Political Parties Lingers

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has resolved to approach the Supreme Court to seek clarification on conflicting judgments of the Court of Appeal on the Commission’s deregistration of political parties. This was stated by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education committee, Festus Okoye. On Monday, August 10, the Court of Appeal sitting in the Federal Capital Territory, led by its President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem overturned the decision of a Federal High Court which upheld INEC’s deregistration of political parties. According to the Court, the Commission failed to give reasons for deregistering the parties. However, INEC in a statement released in reaction to the development, recalled that the Court of Appeal in Abuja in July 2020, had affirmed its powers to deregister political parties that failed to meet the thresholds set out in the Constitution, a decision which was appealed by one of the parties and is pending before the Supreme Court. In the face of conflicting court decisions, INEC has stated that it will be approaching the Supreme Court for “a final resolution of the issues raised.” 

It will be recalled that in February 2020, INEC deregistered 74 political parties out of the 91 parties that participated in the 2019 general elections, on the authority of section 225A of the Nigeria Constitution, as contained in the fourth amendment to the Constitution, which empowers the Commission to deregister political parties on certain grounds. Since then, some parties have been in legal battle with the Commission over the issue. Observers wonder if recent developments on the subject will constitute problems for the conduct of elections, with the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States in view, and deregistered parties not participating in these elections.