The Independent National Electoral Commission will register more political parties before the 2015 general elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who disclosed this toThe PUNCH in Abuja on Friday, however said some parties might be deregistered.
He disclosed that there were eight applications by groups seeking registration as political parties.
“We will still register some parties. Currently, we have eight applications. Some will get it some will not. We may also deregister some parties if the occasion warrants before the 2015 elections,” Jega added
Jega, who did not dwell much on the issue, said by the “provisions of the law,” the electoral body had the power to degister political parties.
Section 78(7) (i) and (ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010. states that , “The commission shall have power to de-register political parties on the following grounds:
“(i) breach of any of the requirements for registration; and
“(ii) for failure to win a seat in the National or State Assembly election.”
There are currently 26 political parties in the country. The commission had on December 6, 2012 deregistered 28.
But on July 29, 2013, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja voided the provisions of section 78(7)(ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010.
Jega however insisted on Friday that the law on deregistration of political parties remained as it was and that INEC would continue to enforce its provisions.
“That is the law. Until it changes, we will continue to enforce the provisions of the law,” he said,
On the deadline for party registration, Jega said the law did not make provision for it . But he assured that INEC was trying to bridge the gap administratively.
Jega said, “We are going to handle that administratively. We may have to put the deadline on the eve of primary elections. Since an applicant will not be able to field candidates for the elections, what’s the point of registering such a party?”
But the National Secretary of the National Conscience Party, Ayodele Akele, faulted Jega, saying the threat by INEC to deregister some parties was unfair.
NCP, founded by the late jurist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), had lost a suit it filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos, challenging the power of the commission to deregister parties. The matter is currently at the Court of Appeal.
Akele argued that it amounted to contradiction when the commission deregistered political parties with one hand and registered additional parties.
He said, “INEC should be told that deregistration of political parties should not warrant its attention. There are enormous tasks ahead of the commission, such as the distribution of the permanent voter card, over-monetisation of election in the country and lack of level playing ground for all political parties. These are issues INEC should focus on.
“If INEC fails to address the issue of distribution of the PVC and continuous voter registration exercise which the commission is handling shoddily, a lot of people will be disenfranchised in 2015.”
He queried the basis for the deregistration of parties when some African countries such as Republic of Benin and South Africa as well as the United States had more political parties than Nigeria.
The NCP chairman said, “There are just 26 political parties in Nigeria. There are about 50 in the Republic of Benin, about 50 in South Africa and even in the US there are about 100 parties with only two prominent ones. Nobody talks of deregistration in those countries.
“Even when INEC was funding political parties under Prof. Maurice Iwu, no party was deregistered. Why is Jega interested in deregistering parties now that INEC no longer funds parties?”
Two political parties that were de-registered a few years ago by INEC had condemned the plan by the commission.
The Fresh Democratic Party and African Liberation Party in separate interviews withTHE PUNCHsaid it would amount to impunity if INEC embarked on fresh deregistration of parties without obeying a court order.
The National Publicity Secretary of FDP, Mr. Ladi Ayodeji, said the commission lacked respect for the rule of law.
He said, “We were deregistered; we went to court and secured a victory. But they refused to obey the court verdict. INEC filed an appeal but they have not followed it through. As I speak, for the last one month, they haven’t got a date.
“They just filed that appeal to stall our party. If Jega is going ahead to deregister more parties, it then shows that the man has no respect for the rule of law.
“The reign of impunity under this government is really very embarrassing. Not even under the military did we experience this phenomenon whereby a government agency will ignore a court order completely. This reign of impunity is very bad and it just defines the character of this government. This is a government that chooses to obey the rule of law it wants. If that happens, you will be inviting anarchy.
“That is why we continue to see pockets of unrest in different parts of the country. They will reach an agreement with trade unions. they won’t implement it, they will sign agreement with teachers, they won’t implement it. The annoying thing is that they are even looking for four more years. The Peoples Democratic Party which claims to obey the rule of law is trying to nominate the President (Dr. Goodluck Jonathan) without a congress. Where is adoption in the Constitution?”
Also, the National Chairman of the African Liberation Party, Chief Emmanuel Okereke, said Jega had an ulterior motive.
He said, “Everybody knows that Jega has an ulterior motive because he knows that with many parties he won’t conduct a credible election in 2015. Jega has an ulterior motive which Nigerians are supposed to have known by now. Jega is the only electoral commission chairman in the world that aborted election.
“Nigerians allowed him and didn’t do anything about it. Jega is doing everything he wants; he has forgotten that this matter is in court. We know his motive and we know what he wants to achieve. And people are aware of it. Jega doesn’t want the people that will tell him the truth. But we are watching and waiting for him.”