The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has reversed the de-registration of 74 political parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Appeal Court led by Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem has set aside the judgement of Federal High Court that upheld INEC’s actions saying the de-registration exercise was illegal for not following due process.
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, the Progressive People Alliance and Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party (ANDP) 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, of Court of Appeal of 5 man panel presided 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 act.
The court further ordered that the appellants should be listed as registered political parties in the country.
The court subsequently ordered that the 74 deregistered parties should be relisted as registered political parties in Nigeria.