A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, halted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from deregistering 33 political parties, pending the determination of a suit before it.
Justice Anwuli Chikere in her ruling held that the electoral umpire should halt the deregistration process until the suit instituted by 33 political parties challenging the power of INEC to carry out the exercise is dispense with.
Although, the suit filed last year by the parties, INEC went ahead on February 6 this year to deregister 74 parties.
Justice Chikere, in a ruling in the interlocutory injunction by the parties, said the defendants, INEC and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, failed to counter the application by the applicants, adding the affected political parties had the legal right which must be protected.
Although the restraining order is coming 11 days after the electoral umpire deregistered 74 political parties, Justice Chikere however adjourned till February 27 for hearing in the substantive suit.
The court had on January 23 fixed ruling for Monday February 17, after counsel to the plaintiffs, Kehinde Edun moved and argued the interlocutory motion.
The plaintiffs, Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Advanced Nigerian Democratic Party (ANDP) All Blending Party (ABP) and 30 others had in March last year dragged the AGF and INEC before the Federal High Court over planned de-registeration of political parties.
The suit was brought under the umbrella body of Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/444/2019 sought amongst other things, an order restraining INEC from deregistering concerned political parties pending the determination of the suit.
The plaintiffs asked the court to determine whether the provisions as contained in the 1999 constitution, introduced by the 4th Alteration Act number 9 of 2017, are to be construed disjunctively/alternatively or whether they are to be construed conjunctively.
“Whether the 2nd defendant can exercise any power under section 225A (b) and (c) of the 1999 constitution without conclusive and democratic elections be first heard and concluded into all electoral constituencies of the federation.
“Whether having regards to the lack of authority by the 2nd defendant to conduct and determine the winners for chairmanship and councillorship elections into Local Government and Wards in the federation the 2nd defendant should be allowed to exercise power to de-register political parties for failure to win election into such seats” and others.
The plaintiffs said if the above questions are in the affirmative, the court should declare provisions introduced by the 4th Alteration Act number 9 of 2017, are intended to be construed dis-junctively.
“A declaration that the power conferred on the 2nd defendant by section 225A (b) and (c) of the 1999 constitution to de-register political parties could not have been intended to have any retro-active effect and as such election into all electoral constituencies must first be held before the power of the second defendant under this can accrue.
They therefore prayed the court for an order of injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from exercising the powers conferred on it by section 225A (1)) and (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I999 until conclusive and democratic elections are held into the presidency, all Governorship, National Assembly, State Assembly, Local Government Chairmanship and Councillorship positions in the Federation, which elections must have been held after this section was introduced.
An order of injunction restraining the second defendant from exercising its powers to de-register the plaintiffs or any political party for that matter as the second defendant does not have the powers to conduct election into all the positions listed in section 225 A(b) and (c) of the 1999 constitution.
An order of injunction restraining the second defendant from deregistering the Plaintiffs or any political party for that matter for failure to win seats or certain percentages of the vote cast at the 20I9 general election as these political parties could have won but for irregularities and cancellations perpetrated by persons who are not agents of the political parties.