A senior advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has reminded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of its powers to de-register political parties that failed to scale some minimum electoral tests.
Falana in a statement today said if such rules are applied, it will see the number of political parties cut from 91 to no fewer than 10.
He noted that power was restored to INEC after the 2017 constitutional amendment, amidst widespread beliefs that the commission has no such power.
“Disturbed by the mockery of multi-party democracy in the country through the unprincipled proliferation of political parties, the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act 2010 to empower INEC to de-register political parties that failed to win an election.”
“Since political parties were registered pursuant to section 222 of the Constitution the suits filed by the affected political parties succeeded as the Federal High Court declared the amendment unconstitutional and set it aside.
“However, the National Assembly took advantage of the 2017 constitutional review to reduce the number of registered political parties in the country.
“Thus, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No 9) Act, 2017 enacted on May 4, 2017, has amended section 225 of the 1999 Constitution to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission to de-register political parties,” Falana wrote.
A political party can be deregistered if it fails to meet up with the requirements for registration or fails to win at least twenty-five per cent of votes cast in one State of the Federation in a Presidential election or one Local Government of the State in a Governorship election.
A party can also be de-registered if it fails 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.
“From the foregoing, it is indubitably clear that INEC has been conferred with enormous powers to de-register political parties that fail to meet the fresh constitutional prerequisites.
“Going by the results of the 2019 general elections the 91 registered political parties may have been reduced to less than 10 that may have scaled the constitutional hurdle.
“Not a few people would hail the constitutional amendment in view of the prostitution of the political system by political parties are ill-equipped to promote participatory democracy, economic freedom, human rights and rule of law.
“But it ought to be pointed out that the planned de-registration of political parties that fail to win elections is likely to limit the political space to the so-called mainstream political parties that are not committed to any political philosophy or ideology”, Falana said.
Falana, who criticized the opportunism of some political parties, as demonstrated in the last general election, urged INEC to sanitise the democratic space by applying the rules and enforcing relevant provisions of the constitution and the electoral act.
“INEC is called upon to formulate new guidelines for the registered political parties within the ambit of the Constitution.
“This should be done in view of the fact that not less than 100 political associations are said to have submitted applications for the registration of new political parties. With respect to registered political parties, INEC must fully comply with section 225(2) of the Constitution by sanctioning them if they fail to submit a detailed annual statement and analysis of their sources of funds and assets.
According to him, reducing the number of political parties will go a long way checking the monetization and manipulation of the democratic process by political godfathers.
“More importantly, INEC should henceforth exercise its powers under Section 224 of the Constitution by ensuring that the programmes, as well as the aims and objects of every political party, conform with the provisions of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of State Policy enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution”, Falana added.