I am seized of the fact that today, the 7th May, 2021, the Supreme Court of Nigeria in a Virtual Sitting delivered Judgment in the appeal filed by the National Unity Party (NUP) affirming the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister the party.
I have not read the full Judgment of the Apex Court and I will not engage at this stage in a speculative review of the decision of the Court.
However, I intend to proceed to make a quick submission on the overriding effect of this latest decision on the ongoing struggle against deregistration of political parties.
I am concerned about the fate of the 22 political parties , which obtained a favourable Judgment at the Court of Appeal in Appeal Number CA/ABJ/CV/507/2020 on 10th August, 2020.
However, my submission will not be restricted to these 22 political parties but the entire 74 deregistered political parties towards the overall goal of defeating the obnoxious provision of deregistration newly inserted into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended).
I have had the benefit of reading the Judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal in CA/ABJ/CV/507/2020 , ACD & 21 ORS v AG. FED & INEC wherein the Court of Appeal made distinction between NUP’s case , whose deregistration was also affirmed by the Court of Appeal and the case of ACD and 21 other political parties, which the Court of Appeal declared their purported deregistration to be unconstitutional.
I am aware that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also filed an appeal on the Judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal in favour of ACD and 21 other political parties.
I am also seized of arguments to the effect that the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court today is not binding on the 22 political parties who obtained a favourable Judgment at the Court of Appeal as the Appeal has not determined by the Supreme Court .
I will proceed to identify the strength and weaknesses of this argument :
- While the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal in the judgment delivered in the case of NUP that INEC has the power to deregister political parties , the Court of Appeal in the ACD &21 ORS v AG. FED & ANOR, being contested by the electoral body affirmed the commission’s power to deregister political parties but ruled that INEC went about the deregistration of the 22 parties “in utmost contempt and disregard for the due process of law and the court.”
As it stands today, the decision in NUP v INEC is the substantive decision of the Supreme Court on the powers of INEC to deregister political parties and INEC will utilise this decision in it’s defence at any legal challenge at lower courts . For instance, a purportedly deregistered political party contesting being placed on the ballot by State Electoral Commissions at any High Court in the States would be confronted with the decision of NUP v INEC .
- Where the appeal in ACD & 21 ORS supra is even determined in favour of the 22 political parties , it is only to the extent that INEC did not comply with the conditions for Deregistration. INEC can proceed to comply with these conditions and deregister the 22 political parties accordingly.
- Final victory for the entire 74 Deregistered Political parties(including the 22 victorious political parties) can only come through the deletion of Section 225 (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended) by the National Assembly.
I hereby submit as follows:
- That it is appropriate for the 74 Deregistered Political parties to launch an all-out campaign for the deletion of the provision of deregistration in the Constitution taken to the National Assembly. The victorious 22 political parties would be exercising early political foresight by leading the way in this regard.
- That the 74 Deregistered Political parties should link up with other civil society organisations and pro-democracy groups that are planning a Grand March on the National Assembly for 19th May, 2020 under hashtag #OccupyNASS to demand the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill to demand deletion of Section 225(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended).
AYO ADEMILUYI ESQ.